The Ombudsman is a State body with constitutional consolidation, in its article 23, and legal support in the Law No. 9/91, April 9 (and its amends), which is his Statute.
Appointed by the Parliament – with qualified majority of its members – the Ombudsman is mandated to receive complaints of all (natural or legal) persons who feel harmed by unfair or illegal public administration’s acts or when their fundamental rights are violated. The Ombudsman is elected for four years, with the possibility of being re-elected once for the same period.
The main function of the Ombudsman is the defense and the promotion of the fundamental rights and freedom and the citizens’ legitimate interests, ensuring, through informal means, the justice and the legality of the exercise of public powers.
The intervention of the Ombudsman is based on the complainants received. However, it is also possible that his intervention is done by his own initiative (articles 4 and 24, paragraph 1, of the Statute), in respect to facts that, by any way, come to his knowledge or through the media, whether the alerts from non-governmental organizations and reports from international organizations, both for his natural sensitivity to perceive the most problematic national situations and also by particularly acuteness with examining complaints to better provide. This State body has full autonomy to act on his own initiative, investigating, monitoring, reporting irregularities and recommending changes in order to improve public services.
Unipersonal, irremovable, fully independent and impartial, the Ombudsman is not, civil and criminal liable for his recommendations, opinions or repairs that he emits or for others acts that he practices in the performance of his duties.
In addition to the traditional functions of Ombudsman, the Ombudsman is, since 1999, the National Human Rights Institution, accredited with A-status by the United Nations, full compliant with the Paris Principles. Consequently, his mission is to promote and to defend the fundamental human rights against all forms of aggression, not only against the administrative disrespect. As the National Human Rights Institution, the Ombudsman is attentive, among others issues, to the fulfillment of children’s, elder’s and persons with disabilities’ rights. This State body is a privileged interlocutor with international entities that have a legitimate interest in knowing the human rights situation in Portugal.
Following the ratification by the Portuguese State of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading, the Ombudsman was appointed as the National Preventive Mechanism. The Ombudsman visits reclusion places (such as prisons facilities or psychiatry hospitals), analyzing the conditions of the places visited, especially if they do not offend the dignity of persons and, if they do it, he could do recommendations to repair the outrageous situation.
Finally, and by virtue of his office, the Ombudsman is member of the Council of State.