About International Conference of Ombuds-Institutions for Armed Forces (ICOAF)
Many countries have established mechanisms and ombuds-institutions for dealing with complaints against their armed forces. While the mandate and scope varies from country to country, in general, the aim of ombuds institutions with jurisdiction over the armed forces is to exercise scrutiny over the armed forces and to investigate any action that is the subject of a complaint against the armed forces.
In various countries, these oversight and complaints mechanisms are set up on the basis of different rationales and organising principles. An ombuds-institution for the armed forces can be either an independent ombuds-institution for the armed forces (e.g. a parliamentary commissioner as is the case in Germany or Bosnia-Herzegovina); an ombuds-institution integrated in the military structures (e.g. inspector-general, as is the case in the United States); or a general ombuds-institution with jurisdiction over the military (as is the case in Serbia).
The aim of ICOAF is to establish best practice and lessons learned related to the mandate, powers and functioning of these institutions. The initiative also reaches out to states that do not have a ombuds-institution for the military but have expressed an interest to learn from experiences from other states. To date, representatives of ombuds- institutions of the following 37 states have participated in the ICOAF initiative: Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Canada, Cote d'Ivoire, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Honduras, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, Senegal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Sweden, Tajikistan, Tunisia, United Kingdom and the United States. The European Union (EU), the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the United Nations and EUROMIL have sent observers to previous ICOAF conferences. The aim is to reach to other states in the near future, in particular post-conflict and transition states.
To date, three ICOAF conferences have taken place. The first ICOAF was held at the German Bundestag in Berlin in May 2009; the second ICOAF took place in the National Assembly of Austria in Vienna in April 2010; the third ICOAF took place at the Palace of Belgrade in April 2011; the fourth ICOAF is planned in Ottawa in September 2012; the fifth ICOAF will be held in Oslo in 2013 and the sixth ICAOF will be organised in Paris.
To learn more about DCAF's work with ombuds-institutions for armed forces, please refer to their fact sheet.