The beginning of 2014 is important, with the selection process of the Ombudsperson being enacted by the Assembly of Kosovo. Bearing in mind the long enduring and highly politicized process of selecting the current Ombudsperson lasting five selection rounds, on this occasion YIHR KS is requesting full transparency of this process.
In addition to being invited to monitor the process from within, which YIHR KS appreciates, YIHR KS has made a request for access to public documents based on the Law on Access to Public Documents. YIHR KS has requested that the applications of candidates be made public, a request which was refused on the basis that no such public documents exist, the obligation to protect personal data and the fact that YIHR KS is monitoring the process.
In response to this unsubstantiated refusal, YIHR KS has supplemented the initial request. Specifically, YIHR KS has outlined that while the Assembly of Kosovo has the obligation to respect both laws (Law on Access to Public Documents and Law on Protection of Personal Data), it also has the duty to ensure that a balance is struck between YIHR KS’ rights to access such information (freedom of expression) and the candidate’s protection of personal data. As such YIHR KS has further detailed that the requested data consists of education and work experience of each candidate. As this selection process is for the highest position in the only independent human rights institution in Kosovo, there is public interest to have this information and to ensure full scrutiny of the entire process, thus reducing the risk of it once again being highly politicized.
Further, the National Agency for Data Protection (Agency) issued an Opinion on the 27th of April 2013 in response to a request by BIRN relating to the education and work experience of candidates applying for the position of Director of the National Theatre. In this instance, the Agency advised the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports that there is a public interest in this information and thus the ‘name, education, work experience and skills’ should be published and that this does not violate the respective institutions obligation to protect personal data.
YIHR KS would like to reiterate that the information requested is essential in order to receive and impart information as guaranteed by the Constitution of Kosovo (Article 40). In this case this right cannot be substituted by YIHR KS’ presence in monitoring the selection committee, as such sessions are private and specific information used by the Deputies during the meetings cannot be shared. Further, it is especially important to inform the public about the credentials of each candidate and contribute to a transparent process and minimize politicization.
Therefore, YIHR KS calls on the Assembly of Kosovo to release the requested information as soon as possible. In the event that they are not fully aware of their legal obligations, YIHR KS requests that the Assembly seek an opinion from the National Agency for Data Protection. As with any request for access to public documents time is of the essence and YIHR KS expects that its request and this call for transparency will be treated seriously and expeditiously. In the event that YIHR KS’ request and this call for transparency are ignored, YIHR KS will be contacting each candidate, to seek his or her permission for this data to be published. Finally, it is important to bear in mind that while Deputies of the Assembly of Kosovo have a role in selecting the Ombudsperson, it is important to also remember that he or she’s role is to serve the interests of the people and not the political parties.