Thiago de Mello’s poem “Para os que Virão” (For those to come), recited by Fernanda Lage, a member of the Brazilian National Network of People’s Lawyers (RENAP), started the conversation on ” The creation of the External Ombudsman of Minas Gerais Public Defender’s Office and the role of civil society in strengthening access to justice”, this Tuesday (June 29).
With this spirit of collectivity and unity for the common good, members of social movements, public defenders, researchers and academics discussed the urgency of creating an External Ombudsman in the Public Defender’s Office (DPMG). The institution’s strategic planning provides for its implementation by 2023, but it is still struggling to get off the ground.
The Complementary Law No. 132, of 2009, determines the implementation of External Ombudsman Offices in all the Public Defender Offices of the country. However, after more than ten years, only 14 states have such a body.
The initiative was the result of articulation between the National Council of Ombudsmen of the Office of the Public Defenders, the Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB), Fórum Justiça, RENAP, Homa – Human Rights and Business Centre, the Brazilian Association of Jurists for Democracy (ABJD) and the Collective of Women Public Defenders of Brazil (ColetivA Mulheres Defensoras Públicas do Brasil).
Simone Silva, one of the affected by dams, from Barra Longa, criticized the lack of dialogue between the Office of the Public Defender and those affected by environmental crimes caused by mining in the state, such as the Samarco dam collapse in Mariana in 2015. The difficulty of access of the affected people to the justice system was an argument also used by Bruno Milanez, representative of the Rio Doce Observatory, who reinforces the need for the Ombudsman Office as a response.
The meeting also addressed strategies for the Minas Gerais Public Defender’s Office to fulfill this mission and, by doing so, improve its services, strengthening the active listening of the groups served by the institution and allowing society to monitor the governance of access to justice in the state.
At the end of the meeting, the following points were set:
To invite the participants to the public hearing that will take place on the week of the 5th of July.
– Share material about the external ombudsman;
– Invite the Association and other groups, such as ColetivA, to conversations with the National Council of Ombudsmen;
– Follow up on the draft on the Ombudsman’s election process;
– Share the draft of the Ombudsman law with the participants.
The public defenders present considered that the Ombudsman Office will have a positive impact on the institution, making it clear the role of articulation to be played by the body with civil society. The Ombudsman of Ceará’s Office of the Public Defender, Antonia Araujo, reinforced that the Ombudsman’s task is to promote dialogue in order to cover the flaws of the institution in meeting complex demands, to give efficient answers to the population and to promote trust between the parties. In this way, the Ombudsman cannot be understood as a second Internal Affairs Office, as is the concern of many defenders.
The event was also attended by the Minas Gerais Public Defenders Association and the Defender General of the Public Defender’s office.