The Ombudsman and the Chancellor of Justice

There are two supreme overseers of legality in Finland: the Chancellor of Justice, who reports to the government and to the parliament, and the Parliamentary Ombudsman.

Their tasks and powers are largely the same. Both oversee the legality of the actions of authorities and officials. The Chancellor of Justice also oversees the actions of lawyers.

In principle, a complaint can be made either to the Chancellor of Justice or the Ombudsman. However, small differences in the division of tasks between them determine which of them ultimately investigates a complaint.

Minor differences in respective tasks

The Chancellor of Justice is exempted from examining issues concerning the Finnish Defence Forces, the Finnish Border Guard or peacekeeping personnel. Nor does he oversee prisons and other institutions where people are confined against their will. He has no duty to oversee the legality of the various forms of deprival of liberty.

All of these matters come under the Ombudsman's oversight. Therefore the Chancellor of Justice refers complaints concerning them to the Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman and the Chancellor of Justice can also transfer complaints from one to the other at times if this expedites handling of the matter or is otherwise justified. If for some reason it is considered appropriate to transfer a complaint from one overseer to the other, the complainant is always notified of this.

The Ombudsman and the Chancellor of Justice do not investigate a matter at the same time. If a complaint has been sent to both, it is generally investigated by whichever of them has received it first.

The Chancellor of Justice has the task of overseeing the legality of the government's actions. For that reason he is present at cabinet sessions and examines the relevant documents beforehand.

The Ombudsman likewise has a right, but not a duty, to examine these documents.