Current events: news and press releases

Statement from the Catalan Ombudsman on the prevention of coronavirus spreading in prisons of Catalonia

03/04/2020

foto

The Catalan Ombudsman has addressed the Prime Minister of the Government of Catalonia and the Catalan Minister of Justice

As announced on March 26th, the Catalan Ombudsman initiated an ex officio action to analyse the management of the crisis caused by the spread of the SARS-CoV2 virus and its incidence in all prisons of the Administration of the Government of Catalonia.

On that occasion, the Ombudsman echoed the official statement by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, calling on governments around the world to reduce the number of people deprived of liberty, in particular those condemned for political reasons or for expressing critical ideas or dissent. Simultaneously, the international mechanisms for overseeing centres of deprivation of liberty (UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, Council of Prevention of Torture of the Council of Europe) recommended reducing the prison population and the search for alternatives to deprivation of liberty.

Subsequently, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, described this pandemic as the "worst crisis since World War II" and called for extraordinary measures to address it, while the European Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic, called for the release of migrants deprived of liberty in detention centres.

Most recently, in a note released yesterday, Boris Cilevics, the Parliamentary Assembly Rapporteur for the Council of Europe, supported the measures taken by many countries to release people deprived of liberty who do not pose any risk to society and, in particular, he referred to inmates with a political profile, in the following terms: 

“Prisoners with political backgrounds, such as the Catalan politicians convicted for their role in the unconstitutional referendum in October 2017, or the Turkish parliamentarians, mayors and other politicians imprisoned for speeches made in the exercise of their mandate, should certainly benefit from such measures”. 

In accordance with these pronouncements, the Catalan Ombudsman urges the prison administration to speed up the actions to release, as far as possible, the largest number of inmates in prisons, in order to minimize risk of SARS-CoV2 virus infections and of helping prevent the collapse of the National Health System.

In this sense, the Catalan Ombudsman recommends the progression to the third degree of prison treatment for all people classified under ordinary regime who enjoy the mode of life provided for in article 100.2 of the Penitentiary Regulation, provided their capacity to carry a regime of life in semi-freedom. Inmates in this situation must have a low profile of danger and a low risk of criminal recidivism and good behaviour; family or social external support to ensure the obligation of home lockdown, and be prepared to maintain other control mechanisms.

This measure should be adopted in a generalized manner and without any form of discrimination among inmates who meet these requirements, so, in accordance with what Cilevics is asking, and in line with what Michelle Bachelet stated, should benefit the nine people convicted by Supreme Court judgment 459/2019.

To enable release and subsequent home lockdown, the progression to the third degree regime could be adopted under the mode of life provided for in article 86.4 of the Penitentiary Regulation, in its non-telematic form, as the Catalan Department of Justice is applying to more than half of the third-degree inmates in the current context of fighting against the coronavirus pandemic. The acceptance of this measure would be favoured by the principle of flexibility, which must be present during the entire period of execution of the sentence of deprivation of liberty, and would be temporary for the duration of the exceptional situation in which we are living.

For this reason, the Catalan Ombudsman is addressing the President of the Government of Catalonia, Quim Torra, and the Catalan Minister of Justice, Esther Capella, to learn about the Catalan Government's action in this matter and if there are instructions from other authorities in a different way.

Barcelona, 3rdApril 2020

Back to the begining of the news list

Rafael Ribó, Catalan Ombudsman, has tested positive for coronavirus

15/03/2020

Ribó had fever and mild respiratory symptoms. In order to meet the criteria, a PCR was performed that tested positive. The Catalan Ombudsman is currently in home insulation and an epidemiological survey is being performed to determine possible contacts.

Back to the begining of the news list

The ombudsmen alert about artificial intelligence and human rights

06/03/2020

foto

The Catalan Ombudsman and the IOI start the debate in Europe on artificial intelligence and human rights in Barcelona

They consider it necessary and urgent to regulate the guarantee of human rights in international treaties, which could be violated by the application of artificial intelligence.

The conference brought together institutions, experts, business representatives, ombudsmen and representatives of human rights structures

On March 2nd and 3rd, the International Workshop on Artificial Intelligence and Human Rights: Ombudsmanship Challenges, Roles, and Tools of was organized by the International Ombudsman's Institute (IOI) and the Catalan Ombudsman at the Museum of Design Hub in Barcelona. The conference had a total of five panel discussions that were based on artificial intelligence and the importance of human rights enforcement and regulation in this field.

During the opening of the seminar, the role of ombudsmen in the field of human rights and artificial intelligence was emphasized, as explained by Rafael Ribó, Catalan Ombudsman, who highlighted the need for a new technological humanism to establish digital rights as human rights. For his part, Pablo Martín, undersecretary of the Ministry of Science and Innovation, underlined the importance and leadership of Catalonia and Barcelona in the field of AI.

The first round table focused on the realities and limits of artificial intelligence and an analysis of positive and negative incidents, with their impact on the our rights. During the session, Andreas Pottakis, Greek Ombudsman, emphasized that AI can become a limit to freedom of expression to the extent that it can make decisions for us and change the way we live. Along these lines, it is essential to secure trust as a key point. In addition, Carina Lopes, Head of the Digital Future Society Think Tank, set goals for AI adoption: regulatory action, public innovation and citizen support.

In the second session of the seminar, From Analogic to Digital Society, the elements were identified as fundamental pillars of system of freedoms and rights, that is the exercise of democracy. During the session, Renata Ávila, Executive Director of the Ciudadano Intelligente Foundation, entrusted ombudsmen with the task of being pioneers of the future, setting the legal foundations for AI. In addition, José María Lassalle, director of the ESADE Technology Humanism Forum, spoke of the importance of a new generation of rights to soothe the negative effects of technological evolution. Daniel Innerarity, Professor of Political Philosophy at the University of the Basque Country and a member of the Iberbasque Foundation for Science, talked about algorithms and their inevitable biases.

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020

The first part of the round table “Rights, challenges, fundamental issues. International institutions and definitions” dealt with the sectorial approach by applying the theory and debate from previous sessions to the different subjects that affect our society. For example, in the field of health, Josep Maria Argimon, Managing Director of the Catalan Health Institute, explained the importance of complying with data standards for good practices: he considers that they must be valid, not biased, transparent and respectful. Ángel Gómez de Ágreda, aviation colonel and head of the Geopolitical Analysis Area of ​​the Secretariat of Defense Policy of the Ministry of Defense, in cybersecurity, suggested that the algorithms reflect us as we are, and this fact it scares us On the other hand, Liliana Arroyo, expert in digital transformation, exposed the discriminations of the application of AI as an amplifier of the social imaginary and Itziar de Lecuona, Deputy Director of the Bioethics and Law Observatory, stated the anonymity of society and the importance of protecting people through their data.

With regard to international treaties, the differing views of the representatives of European agencies whose mission is to protect and enforce their rights were presented. Gregor Strojin, President of CAHAI (Council of Europe's Ad Hoc Committee on Artificial Intelligence), stated that not everything that is feasible in technology is acceptable from a human rights perspective. Geraldine Mattioli-Zeltner, Advisor to the European Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe, gave a positive view by stating the full potential of AI for human rights and Peter Bonnor, Senior Legal Officer at The European Ombudsman, encouraged the opportunity to participate in legislating on AI. Martha Stickings, of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), emphasized the validity and enforceability of treaties and laws in the voluntary nature of codes of ethics.

The last session of the seminar, focusing on the roles, challenges and opportunities for ombudsman institutions, discussed different views and experiences of ombudsman across Europe. During the session, Quirine Eijkman, vice president of the Dutch Institute for Human Rights, called on ombudsmen to get more involved in AI and algorithmic analysis. Rob Behrens, UK Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, said that they are not yet comfortable in his country using AI and that it is necessary to advance in the potentialities that can offer. And Eric Houtman, Belgian federal ombudsman and a member of the NEON, focused on AI related to energy needs and its benefits in this regard.

The conclusions were drawn by Ulises Cortés, Professor and Senior researcher at the UPC, Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC) with moderator Catherine De Bruecker, Belgian Federal Ombudsman. Cortés emphasized the benefits of AI and encouraged its use as an extension of human skills, underlining the importance of the private sector in implementing ethical policies in AI that integrate human rights to ensure people’s safety.

Rafael Ribó, Catalan Ombudsman, emphasized that the concept of human rights goes beyond the law and praised the IOI for the path it is taking in the field of human rights and artificial intelligence. Daniel Marco, Director General of Innovation and Digital Economy of the Government of Catalonia, synthesized the concept of AI as a common good, transparent and good for people.

The first Workshop on Artificial Intelligence and Human Rights organized by the Catalan Ombudsman and the IOI managed to bring together institutional speakers, experts, ombudsmen and representatives of human rights structures to reflect on and express different points of view on artificial intelligence, always prioritizing the human factor and the importance of human rights. The Catalan Ombudsman thanked all the collaboration received by the BSC-CNS (Barcelona Supercomputing Center) and the Digital Future Society (of the Mobile World Capital), as well as the sponsorship by La Caixa.

Schedule in pdf
Link to the seminar's photobook

Back to the begining of the news list

The Catalan Ombudsman demands the safeguard of social rights, the sustainability and the defence of freedoms in the face of growing vulnerability, climate change and the erosion of civil rights

17/02/2020

foto

Annual Report 2019 (in Catalan)

During 2019, 10,543 complaints from 22,993 people have been filed, 8,843 queries were processed and 222 ex officio actions were initiated 222. And, overall, 26,358 files have been processed and more than 30,000 people have been served

Due to the increasing number of complaints related to social emergency situations, the Ombudsman calls for immediate action which effectively responds to the more than 1,300 coexistence units concerned

The protection of the biodiversity of spaces in urban, infrastructure or extractive projects has led to a thousand complaints

In the same year that the Pact against school segregation was signed, several of the actions envisaged have already been implemented

Regarding migrant children and adolescents in transit without family, a strategy for these migrant adolescents and young people in the different municipalities of Catalonia must be urgently deployed

The Catalan Ombudsman has finalized its first Equality Plan for the period 2019-2022 in the field of gender equality

The Catalan Ombudsman, Rafael Ribó, accompanied by the two deputies, Jaume Saura, and M. Jesús Larios, today delivered to the President of Parliament, Roger Torrent, the annual report of the institution for the year 2019.

On year 2019, complaints and ex officio actions on the protection of social rights again constituted the largest block of actions, with 32% of those initiated during the year. In the field of education, mainly due to complaints about access to centres and pre-enrolment, and in the field of health, because of waiting lists and issues regarding the rights and duties of patients, there are there has been an increase in complaints over the previous year. The most significant increase, however, was in residential emergency situations, often of families with children.

On the other hand, territorial policies, which include environment, urbanism and mobility, account for about 30% of the complaints initiated by the Catalan Ombudsman during 2019. In addition, consumer rights represent around 10% of the complaints and more than 20% of the queries received during this financial year.

Wide acceptance of the Catalan Ombudsman's resolutions and improved satisfaction with the Catalan Ombudsman's performance

Of the actions completed, irregularities were detected in 49.3% of cases, and in 37.7% of them the problem was solved without the need for a resolution by the Catalan Ombudsman.

With regards to the acceptance of the Catalan Ombudsman's resolutions, and following the trend of previous years, it is remarkable that in 98.7% of cases in which an irregular performance of the Administration was detected, the Catalan Ombudsman recommended or suggested measures, which were fully or partially accepted.

Another important fact worth noting is the efficiency of the Catalan Ombudsman, measured in resolving problems and compliance with resolutions that have previously been fully or partially accepted by the Administration. In this sense, in 63.7% the problem was solved or the resolutions of the Catalan Ombudsman were fulfilled, while in 36.2% of cases they were still being implemented.

In terms of the level of satisfaction with the service received, one third of the respondents are very satisfied or satisfied. The average grade obtained, with a scale of 0 to 10, was 6.76 and substantially improves that of the previous year, which was 6.1.

In terms of the level of satisfaction with the service received, one third of the complainants are very satisfied or satisfied. The average grade obtained, with a scale of 0 to 10, was 6.76 and substantially improves that of the previous year, which was 6.1.

Back to the begining of the news list

The Catalan Ombudsman hosts the NEON General Meeting in Barcelona

05/02/2020

foto
The meeting brought together energy ombudsmen from Belgium, the United Kingdom or Italy, among others

The General Meeting of the NEON (National Energy Ombudsmen Network) took place today at the headquarters of the Catalan Ombudsman. Formed by members from Belgium, United Kingdom or Poland, for example, the network's main purpose is to exchange and deepen the management and resolution of energy and service complaints, and also to become a monitoring and pressure mechanism before regulatory bodies.

Today's meeting focused on internal issues such as the revision of the by-laws, the work plan and the election of officers, as well as issues of an open or external nature, such as the activities planned individually or by groups by its members.

The Barcelona meeting was attended by the President of the Neon, Janusz Gwiazdowski, Coordinator for Negotiations to the President of Energy Regulatory Office (Poland); the Vice President, Roberto Malaman, from the Italian Energy Regulatory Authority, and the Treasurer, Sabine Keirse, from the Energy Commission (Wallonia). The other attendees were Eric Houtman, from the Energy Mediation Service (Belgium); Ed Dodman, from the Ombudsman Services (United Kingdom); Tara O'beirne, from the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU, Ireland), and Salome Vardiashvili, an ombudsman for the energy and water sector.

NEON is the European network of independent, not-for-profit consumer dispute-resolution services and ombudsmen active in the energy sector. Their members have the public mandate to provide an easily-accessible and free-of-charge way to solve disputes between consumers and companies. Their main goal is to promote a specific model of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), based on independent, national and regional ADR services that defend the general interest and the rights of all consumers, including the most vulnerable ones. The network facilitates the exchange of information, experience and good practices among its members.

The Catalan Ombudsman has been a full member of NEON since 2012, and this is the third time that the Catalan ombudsman institution has hosted a network meeting in Barcelona.

Back to the begining of the news list