The Office of the Ararteko (Ombudsman) for the Basque Country intervened in an action responding to a complaint regarding the operation of a staff to support women who had suffered domestic violence. One of the complainants claimed that she had been seriously harmed in her personal and working life and asked for a restorative justice practice.
The restorative circle held is the first experience of its kind in the Ararteko's practice and it is pioneering in an Ombudsperson institution at an international level as far as we know. As for the objective of the circle, it was essential to focus on creating a safe space for the injured person, which could help her in her process. In this sense, the circle was a success and, over time, it has also strengthened the protection system corresponding to the public resource that was the object of the conflict.
As we have experienced through this experience, the restorative justice and the restorative circles in particular have an expansive effect. This allows other conflicts to emerge successively like the ripples produced by a stone falling into a pond. Conflicts that can be addressed from other circles with new participants or among the same participants to reach agreements or deal with new issues, having a multiplying effect in terms of participation and social cohesion.
Citizens, in general, and users of public services, in particular, are increasingly demanding from the institutions spaces for active and empathetic listening. The restorative justice, although it is not suitable for all issues, offers the methodology, principles and quality standards to foster them.
The aim of incorporating the restorative justice in the institution of the Ararteko should therefore be to generate participative, confidential and safe spaces for dialogue between the administrations and public services and the citizens in order to promote their improvement and thus contribute to good administration and public governance.
This way, Ombudsperson offices can contribute to expand the culture of restorative justice among citizens as users of public services and public administrations and help to turn restorative justice into an ordinary day to day practice.
Key words: Ombuds, public services, public administration, restorative justice practices, dialogue, social cohesion, participation, good administration.
Photo: the Entrance of the Ararteko's Office
Roberto Moreno is the Officer Responsible for Justice, Prisoners and Victims of Terrorism at the Ararteko - Ombudsman for the Basque Country.