In his latest blog posting, Chris LaHatte, the Ombudsman for the Internet Corporation For Assigned Names and Numbers, explains why Ombuds must protect their neutrality at all times. He sees the duty of neutrality as equal in importance to Ombuds and to judges.
The importance of this neutrality is that when a complainant comes to the ombudsman with an issue, the ombudsman cannot forming any opinion until the investigation is completed. In my view it goes further. There must be particular care in an investigation, when information is sought from affected parties, that the questioning does not disclose any particular bias and that the questions are purely a fact or opinion seeking exercise.The requirement for neutrality however, extends beyond the investigations. There is no doubt that as the result of an investigation that an ombudsman may from time to time deliver a strong view about conduct which they regard as unacceptable. That is of course a most important part of the role of an ombudsman.
So the complainants must have confidence in the office of the ombudsman in that they must not be deterred by any views expressed by the ombudsman in other forums. This effectively means that an ombudsman should be very careful not to publicly disclose any particular political preference or views about issues which are likely to come into the office, such as gender or race or sexual orientation. An ombudsman is of course a human being, and may hold political views. But it would be difficult if those views were to be advocated in any official or semi official role.
LaHatte says this principle of neutrality applies to Organizational Ombuds, Parliamentary Ombuds, and Ombuds such as the ICANN ombudsman. (ICANN Ombudsman Blog.)