Current events: news and press releases

The Catalan Ombudsman claims zero tolerance against gender discrimination

25/02/2019

Calls for the MWC job offer to be withdrawn, which rewards stewardesses who are over 1'75 tall with a financial supplement

The Catalan Ombudsman will address the CEO of the organizing body of the World Mobile Congress (MWC), John Hoffman, to cancel a job offer intolerable with regards to sexualisation of women. Specifically, it refers to the recently published news about the fact that stewardesses of the WMC that exceed the height of 1.75 will be paid a supplement of one euro per hour. The Ombudsman considers that this case could be a serious and/or very serious administrative offense, in accordance with article 59 (3 and 4) of Law 17/2015, of July 21st, of effective equality between men and women, which states that it is a serious offense:

“Carrying out actions or imposing clauses in legal transactions that constitute or cause discrimination on grounds of sex.”

“Any behaviour, whether or not of a sexual nature, that depends on the sex of a person, that intentionally offends their dignity and that creates an intimidating, degrading or offensive situation.”

In this case, the ombudsman has also asked the Catalan Department of Labour to carry out the appropriate inspection actions.

The Ombudsman is the institution whose mission is to ensure the protection of fundamental rights and public freedoms. To this end, it oversees the activity of the Catalan public administrations. As part of its duties, the institution has also addressed the Catalan Women's Institute (ICD) and the Audiovisual Council of Catalonia to inform them.

The Ombudsman defends the right to effective equality between men and women because it considers it an essential value in a democratic state of law. In this regard, Law 17/2015, dated July 21, on the effective equality of men and women, establishes in article 57 that the Catalan Ombudsman, in accordance with the powers granted by the Statute of Autonomy and Law 24/2009, of December 23, is the body in charge of defending rights and freedoms in matters of non-discrimination for reasons of gender that could have been violated by the action of institutions or people, both public or private.

The same article establishes among the competences of this institution to carry out investigations, both ex officio and through complaints, to clarify possible situations of direct or indirect discrimination on the basis of sex, as well as facilitate negotiation routes and make recommendations to natural persons and legal entities in order to correct situations or discriminatory practices based on gender, and monitor compliance with these recommendations.

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Rafael Ribó: "It is incomprehensible to exclude from the trial the testimony of the institution in charge of guaranteeing rights and that it can provide objective data on the facts judged"

18/02/2019

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The institution has received dozens of complaints and has processed numerous files related to events that occurred on October 1st and 26th, facts that are at the core of the cause

Omitting the contributions of the Ombudsman may affect the right of defence of the parties that have requested his appearance

This matter will be brought into the attention of international human rights organizations and other European Ombudsmen

The Ombudsman, regarding the decision of the Supreme Court to exclude his testimony in the hearing of special cause 20907/2017, considers that it is incomprehensible, given his task of defence of rights and freedoms, by means of which he has received numerous complaints that could be provided as objective data. This may deprive the Court of its role of seeking the truth of the facts that focus the trial and the circumstances that surround them. In addition, he notes that omitting the contributions of the Ombudsman may affect the right of defence of the parties that have requested their appearance.

It should be recalled that the Catalan Ombudsman is the institution of Catalonia that, by statutory mandate, is in charge of the defence of fundamental rights and freedoms recognized in the Constitution, the Statute and international treaties. In this condition, and beyond the reports on rights and freedoms submitted during this period, the Catalan Ombudsman has received dozens of complaints and has processed numerous files related to events that occurred on October 1 and 26, facts that are in the core of the criminal case that is diluted to the Supreme Court. Likewise, the Ombudsman has been in direct contact with many of the circumstances that have surrounded the facts that are the object of the trial, and especially those that have affected the rights of people, which is why the exclusion of his testimony may mean depriving the Court of knowledge of facts relevant to the case.

With regard to the argument of the Supreme Court in the ruling of February 1st, 2019, the ombudsman, Rafael Ribó, shows that the direct testimony and before the Court of the facts indicated in his reports regarding the object of the trial, far from being excessive or expressing a subjective assessment, would have helped to clarify them. The aforementioned ruling rejects the appearance because “the reports submitted by the Ombudsman are available on the web, constitute a well-known fact and do not require additional explanations or evaluative reflections by its author”.

In the consideration of questions prior to the oral hearing, held on Thursday, February 14th, the president of the Second Chamber has once again rejected the testimony of the Catalan ombudsman. In the upcoming days, the Catalan ombudsman will bring this matter to the attention of international human rights organizations and other European Ombudsmen.

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The Catalan Ombudsman calls for political agreements to deal with issues and social inequalities

11/02/2019

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In 2018, 10,495 complaints were received from 14,000 people. 9,987 queries have been processed and 264 ex-officio actions have been initiated. And overall, 26,000 files have been processed and more than 35,000 people have been attended

It is frequent that cases on the denial or non-resolution on the guaranteed income entail serious situations of energy poverty and even evictions

In 2018, there has been an increase in the Catalan Ombudsman's requests for intervention in the field of civil and political rights

In this report, as a final consideration, Rafael Ribó asks all Catalan institutions to set as priority challenges for the future the fight against social and economic inequality, the consideration of housing as a fundamental right and equal opportunities in education

The Catalan Ombudsman received a total of 10,495 complaints from 14,000 people during the year 2018, given that some are collective. It is the highest figure after 2015. It has also attended 9,987 queries and has begun 264 ex-officio actions. 136 office visits have been made to 106 municipalities and, overall, 26,000 cases have been processed. The Catalan Ombudsman, Rafael Ribó, highlighted this information to the President of the Parliament, Roger Torrent, to whom he submitted the Annual Report 2018, the last of the term for which he was elected in 2010.

During the meeting held with the President of Parliament, Rafael Ribó expressed his concern about the political instability experienced in Catalonia during 2018, aggravated by the introduction of obstructive and interventionist measures that have made it difficult its governability. In this regard, he warned that the main victims always ends up being the most vulnerable people, who are the ones who require the most protection of the Administration.

The most significant increase in complaints has been registered in the field of social policies, which has exceeded the threshold of 30% (32%) with regards to all the problems raised. And in a more speficic way, the difficulties encountered by people at risk of social exclusion have been identified. Never had the Catalan Ombudsman received so many complaints in which a single person would agglutinate such a number of problems of a diverse nature.

It is frequent that cases on the denial or non-resolution on the guaranteed income entail serious situations of energy poverty and even evictions. These situations can be even more dramatic in the case of people with dependent children. In fact, most complaints in these areas have been filed by women. The gender is very present in this reality, and the Catalan Ombudsman urges the development and implementation of social policies from this perspective.

The Catalan Ombudsman, Rafael Ribó, thanked the good predisposition and collaborative attitude of the administrations throughout the this term and called on all the Catalan institutions to set as priority challenges for the future the fight against social and economic inequality, consideration of housing as a fundamental right and equal opportunities in education.

68% of awareness and almost 80% efficiency

At the beginning of the first term, the Catalan Ombudsman was an institution unknown to a large part of Catalan citizenship. The index of awareness in 2005 barely exceeded 50%. According to the latest awareness survey, carried out in January 2019, the degree of visibility of the institution and its work has reached 68%. Beyond the projection, the Catalan Ombudsman had set the objective of influencing the utility of the service provided. In 2018, 97.6% of the resolutions were accepted (25.1% of which a  partial acceptance).

Featured actions by subject

2018 data show an increase in the number of interventions in two particularly relevant areas. One is the one of public administration, in particular of citizen participation, since many people consider that their civil and political rights have been violated, such as the right of demonstration or of freedom of expression, the right to be represented by the people they have voted for or the neutrality of the use of public spaces, among others.

However, the most significant increase this year has occurred in the field of social policies. The year 2018 has been especially hard for people at risk of social exclusion.

The areas related to childhood and education and also the field of transparency are dealt with in depth in the respective mandatory reports that can be found on the web sindic.cat

MAIN TOPICS HANDLED 

Social policies

Inadequate response from the administrations to the eviction of vulnerable people

Violations in the field of housing have led to an increase in complaints and have highlighted the lack of a sufficient social housing stock and the collapse of residential emergency boards.  Emergency boards are overwhelmed by the increase in housing needs and the resolution deadlines are excessively long.

Hundreds of complaints related to the guaranteed citizen income

The Catalan Ombudsman has received hundreds of complaints about the refusal or failure to respond to the demand for guaranteed citizen income and also because of the lack of information about the different benefits provided for in Law 14/2017. 

The management of the social good of electricity is confusing and complex

Regarding the social energy benefit, the complaints received during 2018 show that some collectives, such as the recipients of widowhood pensions, that enjoyed this benefit in the energy bill according to the previous regulations, were excluded.

Public administration and rights

Increase in complaints related to freedom of expression

In 2018, there has been a significant increase in the Catalan Ombudsman's requests for intervention in the field of civil and political rights; many linked to the demonstrations and violations of the freedom of expression or the neutrality of the public spaces.

Territorial policies

Aggressions to the environment

The Catalan Ombudsman continues to be concerned about the proliferation of urban projects with a speculative dimension, as demonstrated in the monographic report presented in May this year.

Measures to reduce air pollution in Barcelona

In the field of the environment, the Catalan Ombudsman has studied the measures taken by the Barcelona City Council to reduce the high levels of air pollution in the city and its metropolitan area.

Consumers Affairs

Abusive practices in the management of payment of basic supply debts

The Catalan Ombudsman has received complaints about the debt collection practices carried out by agencies acting on behalf of supply companies, in relation to people who are in a situation of energy poverty

STRUCTURE OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN CATALONIA AND PLAN OF HUMAN RIGHTS  

Throughout 2018, the Structure has approved a catalogue of 27 human rights and has developed the corresponding diagnostic studies on the situation of these rights in Catalonia and the proposals for improvement. These documents are currently being discussed among the most relevant entities in each subject, as a prior step to dissemination and consultation with society in general, in a process that should lead to the preparation of a proposal of the National Rights Plan humans.

All the documentation and the contributions that are produced can be consulted on the website www.estructuradh.cat.

FINAL CONSIDERATIONS 

The report ends with a note on some issues that are future challenges in the achievement of rights in Catalonia:

The fight against social and economic inequality, especially of some groups such as children and people belonging to minorities.

The consideration of housing as a fundamental right and not just as an economic object, so that universal access to affordable housing is truly effective.

Equal opportunities in education and fighting against segregation as an instrument to guarantee equality.

The guarantee of the rights of migrants, either for economic reasons or for refuge, with a special impact on children who arrive in our country without family references.

The guarantee of the condition of children as full citizens with the capacity to inform themselves and participate in social and political life.

The visibilization and fight against sexist and LGTBI violence.

The visibility and fight against childhood abuse and child sexual abuse.

The substantial reduction of the levels of atmospheric pollution in our cities, from an approach to the right to people's health.

The future of young people in our country in an environment of occupational uncertainty and degradation of higher education with the consequent flight of talents.

The impact on the rights of new technologies and the scope of these rights in the digital space, taking into account issues such as the protection of personal data or the technological gap between generations

The consideration of the territory as a heritage that must be preserved as an individual and collective right of our generation and of those that must come.

The right of all people in our society to participate actively and without restriction in the political decisions and to facilitate this participation.

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The Catalan Ombudsman participates in the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the European Investment Bank Complaints Mechanism

14/01/2019

The Catalan Ombudsman, Rafael Ribó, participated today in the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the European Investment Bank Complaints Mechanism. The intervention of the Catalan Ombudsman has been placed at the round table on the results and challenges of the independent accountability mechanisms, along with other representatives and members of civil society, who have exercised a function of control and supervision of the actions carried out by the EIB, through its Complaints Mechanism.

The intervention of the Catalan Ombudsman has focused on highlighting the importance of the control mechanisms and the capacity to be accountable for public actions, promoting transparency, participation and analysis of the processes and mechanisms of action. In this regard, he praised the courage to create the complaints mechanism by the EIB 10 years ago, and encouraged its managers to provide it with the means and sufficient resources so that it can carry out its functions in the most guaranteeing way possible, in accordance with established procedures and the principles of good administration.

Much of the speech by the Catalan Ombudsman focused on the monitoring carried out by institution of the Castor platform project, which has also been largely tackled by the EIB's Complaints Mechanism, from the perspective of the analysis of the process of financing. The Catalan Ombudsman stressed that MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) concluded in its investigations that there was cause-effect relationship between gas injections and seismic movements. On this matter, the European Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly, recently issued a resolution that describes as maladministration the action carried out by the European Investment Bank (EIB). The Catalan Ombudsman also praised the work carried out by the Citizen Platform in Defense of the Sénia River, which has been defined as a democratic movement for the struggle and defense of collective rights.

The EIB's Complaints Mechanism is the public tool of the EIB that handles the complaints and queries of people about the projects, policies or activities carried out by the EIB's groups.

 

 

 

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The Catalan Ombudsman meets with the authorities of the Council of Europe to address criteria for the protection of human rights and to inform about the situation in Catalonia

31/10/2018

Rafael Ribó met with Thorbjørn Jagland (Secretary General) and Dunja Mijatović (European Commissioner for Human Rights), among others

The Catalan Ombudsman has delivered the report on the events of October 1 in Catalonia and the application of article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, which will be debated on November 7 in the Plenary of the Parliament

Rafael Ribó, Catalan Ombudsman and European President of the IOI (International Ombudsman Institute), has traveled on 30 and 31 October 2018 to Strasbourg and Paris to meet with the main European authorities in the field of people's rights.

In Strasbourg, he has met with the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland; the European Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović; the head of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Secretariat of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Günter Schirmer, and the Secretary General of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe.

Ribó has met separately with them to address the role that European ombudsmen play in difficult times in the history of the European Community. He has emphasized the challenges and obstacles that must be tackled, such as populism, xenophobia and setbacks in human rights.

These issues were dealt with comprehensively in Barcelona in 2016 and 2017 within the framework of two seminars in which ombudsmen from all over the world participated and made two joint statements. The task of the ombudsman and the contributions that this institution can make to the current situation have also been debated in the last European Congress of the IOI, recently held in Brussels, in which the focus was on participation -from a local to a global level-,transparency and the application and utility of the international standards in the task of ombudsmen institutions.

During these meetings, the Catalan Ombudsman informed the Council of Europe about the situation in Catalonia, and referred to the need to demand the Spanish Government the report on the police action of October 1, 2017. He has also proposed that the possibility of sending observers to the trials of Catalan leaders and parliamentarians be studied, and has delivered the institution's report on the Violation of fundamental rights and public freedoms on the occasion of the criminal reaction to October 1 and the application of article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, published on May 2017. 

Ribó has also met with the European Commissioner for Human Rights, with whom he addressed issues of concern for both institutions, such as migration flows and emerging human rights.

The meeting of the Venice Commission, which took place in the Council of Europe's office in Paris on Wednesday, October 31, aims to work on the document on principles for the protection and promotion of ombudsman institutions (Principles of Venice ). During the drafting process the main authorities and reference institutions in the field of human rights have been consulted.

The Paris meeting was attended by representatives of the International Ombudsman Institute (IOI), the Association of Ombudsmen and Mediators of the French-speaking World (AOMF), the Iberoamerican Federation of Ombudsman (FIO), the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions (ENNHRI ) and the Association of Mediterranean Ombudsmen.

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