The Austrian Ombudsman Board (AOB) - Die Volksanwaltschaft

The Austrian Ombudsman Board (AOB) or Die Volksanwaltschaft has been monitoring the public administration since 1977, based on the Federal Constitution.

Austrian Ombudsman Board
  • The Ombudsman Board assists citizens if they feel they have been treated unfairly by an Austrian authority – irrespective of their age, nationality or their place of residence. Companies, businesspeople and associations can also lodge a complaint about the public administration with the AOB.
  • The Austrian Ombudsman Board (AOB) has been responsible for promoting and protecting human rights in the Republic of Austria since 1 July 2012, with reference to the UN Paris Principles.
  • Since September 2009, the AOB has been operating the General Secretariat of the International Ombudsman Institute (IOI).

Monitoring public administration
The Austrian Ombudsman Board monitors all authorities, administrative bodies and departments of the state, provinces and local government authorities. The AOB investigates complaints from citizens and assesses whether the administration is acting within the law and complies with human rights standards. If the AOB suspects maladministration, it can also act ex-officio – in other words act without a specific complaint.

Protecting and promoting human rights
Since 1 July 2012, the AOB has also been responsible for protecting and promoting compliance with human rights as part of the UN mandate.

The AOB and its commissions have been monitoring all institutions in which liberty is being or may be deprived or restricted. It also examines the institutions and programmes for persons with disabilities as well as the exercise by the administration of direct authority and the use of force, particularly during deportations and demonstrations.

National Prevention Mechanism (NPM)
The legal constitutional mandate for protecting human rights as a “National Prevention Mechanism” (NPM) is based on the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

As an NPM, The AOB focuses on the following areas and issues:

  • Prevention of violence against children in foster care,
  • Safeguarding autonomy and self-determination in homes for elderly and nursing homes,
  • Right to personal freedom and right to privacy in (psychiatric) hospitals
  • Women and imprisonment
  • Right to mental and physical health

Supporting legislative authority
The impact laws actually have on people’s lives is often only evident when regulations are applied by authorities. Breaking points or shortcomings of laws often become evident when they are monitored.

The AOB incorporates these experiences into the ongoing legislative process by occasionally drawing up statements on draft laws for the evaluation procedure and submitting these statements to the Austrian Parliament or a state parliament.

The AOB also makes the legislative authority aware of existing legal provisions that are problematic and draws up suggestions for improvements in the form of legislative propositions. It is also authorised to assess the legitimacy of a regulation adopted by a federal or provincial authority. In this case, the board is able to submit an application to the Constitutional Court. The AOB is also involved in petitions and citizens’ initiatives that are addressed towards the Austrian Parliament.

International Ombudsman Institute (IOI)
Since September 2009, the Austrian Ombudsman Board (AOB) has been operating the International Ombudsman Institute (IOI) General Secretariat. Secretary General is Günther Kräuter, Member of the AOB.