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TITLE:  AUSTRIA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

                            AUSTRIA


Austria is a constitutional parliamentary democracy.  A 
coalition government of the Social Democratic Party and 
People's Party, originally formed after the 1986 national 
election, continued in office after the October 1990 election.  
The Freedom Party, the Green Party, and the Liberal Forum, 
which split from the Freedom Party in February 1993, form the 
opposition.

The police and security organs are subordinated to the 
executive and judicial authorities.  However, there continued 
to be reports of police abuse.

Austria affords its citizens a high standard of living.

Human rights are highly respected in Austria; individual rights 
and political freedoms are provided for in the Constitution and 
generally protected.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of politically motivated or extrajudicial 
killings.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no political abductions.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

Torture is banned by the European Convention for the Protection 
of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which is incorporated 
into the Constitution.

As a result of continued allegations of police brutality over 
the past few years, regulations which stipulate more clearly 
the limits of police conduct during investigations took effect 
in May.  According to the Interior Ministry and human rights 
groups, complaints of police brutality decreased significantly.


     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution prohibits arbitrary detention or exile.

In criminal cases the law provides for investigative or 
pretrial detention for up to 48 hours, except in cases of 
charges of "aggressive behavior", by which time an 
investigative judge must decide on the legality of continuing 
the detention.  Provided the prosecutor requests detention and 
the investigative judge agrees, the accused may be held for a 
maximum of 2 years pending completion of an investigation.  
Grounds for investigative detention are specified in the law, 
as are conditions for release on bail.  A reform of Austrian 
law regarding investigative and pretrial detention has been 
adopted and is scheduled to go into effect in January 1994.  
The new law requires mandatory reevaluation of a detention by 
the investigative judge at 2 weeks, 1 month, and every 2 months 
after the arrest.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The judiciary is independent of the executive and legislative 
branches of government.  Judges are appointed for life and may 
not, in principle, be removed from office.  Jury trials are 
prescribed for major offenses, and those convicted have the 
right of appeal.  Written charges must be presented to the 
accused who has the right to be represented by a lawyer.  The 
accused are presumed innocent, and trials are public.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
         Correspondence

The law provides for the protection of personal data collected, 
processed, or transmitted by government agencies, public 
institutions, and private entities.  Constitutional provisions 
also protect the secrecy of the mail and telephone.  Following 
the restructuring of the state police after a 1990 scandal 
involving the monitoring of private citizens without sufficient 
grounds, a 1991 federal police law introduced parliamentary 
control over the state police and the military secret service 
on a permanent basis.  Parliamentary subcommittees to oversee 
these organs were formally established in September 1993.


Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

These freedoms are provided by the Constitution and generally 
respected in practice, although stringent slander laws 
discourage reports of police brutality.  Austria has a free, 
independent, and multifaceted press, ranging from conservative 
to Communist.  Publications may be removed from circulation if 
they violate legal provisions concerning morality or public 
security.  As a matter of practice, such cases are extremely 
rare.  Opposition viewpoints are given wide attention in 
Austrian publications.  A 1992 law lowered the minimum 
sentences for public denial, belittlement, approval, or 
justification of Nazi crimes.  The lowering of minimum 
sentences has had the desired effect of increasing the 
conviction rate of those accused of neo-Nazi activities.

Austrian radio and television have been government monopolies 
but present diverse points of view.  There have been no 
complaints of either subtle or direct censorship.  A law passed 
in July allows for establishment of private radio and 
television stations.  Cable television is widely available, 
allowing Austrians access to international broadcasts.  They 
also listen to radio broadcasts from other European countries.

Freedom of academic expression is respected.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for freedom of assembly and 
association.  Public demonstrations require a permit from the 
police authorities, who are limited to considering only the 
public safety aspect of the proposed demonstration, not its 
political purpose.  Permits are routinely issued.  The 
Constitutional Law of 1945, as amended in 1947, prohibits Nazi 
organizations and activities.  The Austrian State Treaty of 
1955 also made an exception to freedom of association in the 
case of Nazi organizations and activities.  The Law on the 
Formation of Associations stipulates that permission to form an 
association may be denied if it is apparent that the 
organization will pursue the illegal activities of a prohibited 
organization.


     c.  Freedom of Religion

This right is provided by the Constitution, although the Treaty 
of St. Germain, which is also incorporated into the 
Constitution, restricts this freedom to the practice of 
religions that are compatible with public safety and morality.  
There are no known instances of a religion being banned under 
the Treaty.  In order to qualify as a recognized religious 
organization under Austrian law, religious groups register with 
the Government.  Although 78 percent of the population is Roman 
Catholic, most of the world's major religions are represented 
and practice their faiths freely.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The Government does not restrict freedom of movement within the 
country or the right to change residence or workplace.  
Austrian residents are free to travel abroad and to emigrate.  
Citizens who leave the country have the right to return.

Over the past few years the Government tightened its asylum 
regulations.  Asylum seekers must apply for asylum in the first 
country in which they are able to make application (all 
surrounding countries are considered by Austria to be "safe" 
for asylum seekers) and are not allowed to stay in Austria 
while appealing their rejected asylum requests.  As a result, 
asylum applications dropped from 11,875 in the first half of 
1992 to 2,490 in the first half of 1993.  Authorities approved 
9.1 percent of asylum applications in the first half of 1993.  
Opposition groups, including political parties and human rights 
organizations, maintain that Austria's strict new asylum laws 
violate the right to apply for asylum and the right of asylum 
seekers to reside in Austria while their rejected asylum 
requests are appealed.

A new residence law went into effect in July.  The law is broad 
in scope and does not distinguish between immigrants and 
nonimmigrants; several of its provisions generated vociferous 
public debate.  An implementing regulation which required that 
each foreign resident have a minimum of 10 square meters of 
living space to be eligible for a residence permit (including 
renewal of a previous permit) was withdrawn.  A provision that 
a foreign resident could be deported if the authorities did not 
process a properly filed application for a residence permit 
within 6 weeks was retained and justified as intended to force 
the bureaucracy to process applications expeditiously.  Human 
rights organizations and the Catholic Caritas organization 
strongly criticized the residence law.  The debate about 
whether to amend the controversial residence law continued at 
year's end.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Austria is governed through a democratic parliamentary system.  
The Constitution stipulates that national elections must be 
held at least every 4 years.  Elections are free and regularly 
draw high levels of participation.  Ballots are secret.  There 
is universal suffrage for those over 19 years of age.

The 1990 election continued a coalition government composed of 
the two largest political parties, the Social Democratic Party, 
which won 80 seats in Parliament, and the People's Party, which 
won 60 seats.  Three other parties are represented in 
Parliament--the Freedom Party, the Greens, and the newly formed 
Liberal Forum.  Although there are no legal impediments, women 
are significantly underrepresented in government and politics.  
According to a Parliamentary spokesperson, 41 of 183  
parliamentarians are women (22.4 percent).  Although the 
political culture in Austria has been and is dominated by men, 
women are making inroads.  The Social Democrats, at their 
summer congress, established a 40 percent quota for female 
parliamentarians, to be fully implemented in 10 years.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

Allegations of improper activities on the part of the 
authorities are discussed and investigated by the press, public 
groups, and private individuals without government hindrance.  
Both international and local human rights groups operate 
freely.  Austria recognizes the competence of the European 
Human Rights Commission in Strasbourg to implement the European 
Convention on Human Rights.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

Austria has a comprehensive public welfare system, the benefits 
of which are available to all citizens on a nondiscriminatory 
basis.  In employment and in other areas, comprehensive legal 
protection is provided against discrimination because of race, 
sex, religion, language, disability, or social status.  In 
December, a letter bomb campaign targeted public persons known 
for their sympathy and support of immigrants and refugees in 
Austria.  Among those seriously injured was the Mayor of 
Vienna.  The ongoing police investigation has led to the arrest 
of six men associated with rightwing, neo-Nazi organizations.

     Women

Most legal restrictions on women's rights have been abolished.  
Women are still prohibited by law from night work in most 
occupations, however, and this ban is sometimes used as a 
pretext for not hiring women.  Nurses, taxi drivers, and a few 
other occupations are exempted.  The Women's Ministry defends 
the night-work ban on the basis that women are also the primary 
care providers for children during the day.

Women are entering the work force in increasing numbers and 
have made substantial progress toward economic equality.  
Nevertheless, in practice, they are generally underrepresented 
in the professions and business.  Women are not allowed in the 
Austrian military.  There is no conscription of women as there 
is for men.  Recent suggestions by various politicians that 
women do mandatory civilian service have been rejected by the 
Women's Ministry and women's organizations.

Although labor laws providing for equal treatment extend to 
women in the civil service, women are nonetheless 
underrepresented in government service also.  To remedy past 
practice, women of equivalent qualifications are to be placed 
in jobs ahead of men in civil service areas in which less than 
40 percent of the employees are women.  The 40-percent hiring 
quota was part of the Women's Omnibus Law which went into 
effect in January 1993.  According to the Women's Ministry, 
although the quota was contained in the law, there are no 
penalties for not meeting it.  Women may be awarded 
compensation of up to 4 months' salary if discriminated against 
in promotions because of their gender.  Compensation may also 
be awarded to victims of sexual harassment.

Laws are in place to combat the problem of violence against 
women, but enforcement is often difficult, according to a 
Women's Ministry spokesperson.  When police arrive on the scene 
of a domestic dispute where a woman has been physically abused, 
they can do nothing to the man if he is peaceful or the woman 
does not file a complaint.  A court order forcing a man to stay 
away from his wife or girlfriend generally takes 3 to 6 weeks 
to obtain.

     Children

The Government is seriously committed to protecting children's 
rights and welfare.  The law provides for 2 years of paid 
maternity leave for mother or father.  Parents receive a 
government payment of about $1,200 for the birth of each child 
and between $100 and $140 per month for the maintenance of each 
child.  Child care is often provided or subsidized by federal, 
state, and local governments.  Because of a severe shortage of 
government child care centers, private centers are increasingly 
in demand.  No pattern of societal abuse of children exists.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The rights of members of all minorities are fully respected.  
In addition, the Government recognizes Croat, Slovene, 
Hungarian, Czech, and Slovak minority groups, and is discussing 
recognition of the Roma and Sinti (Gypsy) minorities.  The 
Ethnic Minorities Law allows a recognized minority to establish 
an ethnic group council to advise the Government on issues 
regarding that minority.  It also provides for the 
establishment of minority language schools in some 
communities.  All of the five recognized minorities have 
established minority councils.

     People with Disabilities

Disabled individuals are protected by law from discrimination 
in housing, education, and employment.  Austrian law requires 
businesses and state and federal government offices to employ 1 
disabled person for every 25 to 45 employees, depending on the 
type of work, or to pay a fee to the Government.  The 
Government uses collected fees to pay for programs for the 
disabled--such as training programs and grants to firms to help 
pay the wages of disabled workers.  Some businesses and offices 
opt to pay the fee rather than employ people with disabilities.
No federal law mandating access for the disabled has been 
enacted.  Some public buildings are virtually inaccessible for 
those unable to climb stairs.


Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Workers have the right to form and join unions without prior 
authorization.  This right is protected under general 
constitutional guarantees of freedom of association.  In 
practice, Austrian trade unions have an important and 
independent voice in the political, social, and economic life 
of the country.  In 1993, 53 percent of the work force was 
organized in 14 national unions, all of which are members of 
the Austrian Trade Union Federation (ATUF).  This organization 
has a strong, centralized leadership structure.  Individual 
unions and the Federation are independent of government or 
political party control, although formal factions within these 
organizations are closely allied with political parties.

Although the right to strike is not explicitly provided by the 
Constitution or by national legislation, it is universally 
recognized.  Strikes have been comparatively few and usually of 
short duration.  A major reason for Austria's record of labor 
peace is the system of "social partnership", an unofficial 
forum for cooperation among labor, management, and government.  
At the center of the system is the Joint Parity Commission for 
Wages and Prices, which has an important voice on major 
economic questions.

The ATUF, its political wings, and its member unions have 
affiliations with all three world labor federations.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Unions have the right to organize and bargain collectively.  
The labor movement enjoys widespread acceptance, and almost all 
large companies, private and state-owned, are organized.  
Worker councils operate at the enterprise level, and workers 
are entitled by law to elect one-third of the members of the 
supervisory boards of major companies.  Collective agreements 
covering wages, benefits, and working conditions are negotiated 
by the ATUF with the National Chamber of Commerce and its 
associations, which represent the employers.  Wage-price policy 
guidelines are set by the Joint Parity Commission.  A 1973 law 
obliges employers in enterprises with more than five employees 
to prove that job dismissals are not motivated by antiunion 
discrimination.  Employers found guilty of antiunion 
discrimination are required to reinstate workers fired for 
union activities.  Austrian labor and business representatives 
remained in disagreement over how to comply with the obligation 
under ILO Convention 98 to provide legal protection against 
arbitrary dismissals to employees in firms with five employees 
or less.

Workers are further protected by mandatory membership in the 
Austrian Chambers of Labor, to which all employees except civil 
servants belong.  These Chambers carry out studies and prepare 
legislative proposals.  They are obliged to provide free legal 
assistance, including a lawyer, to any employee requesting it.  
Typically, legal disputes between employer and employees 
regarding job-related matters are handled by a special 
arbitration court for social affairs.  The ATUF is exclusively 
responsible for collective bargaining.  The leaderships of the 
Chambers and the ATUF are elected democratically.

Austria has no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced labor is prohibited by law and is not practiced.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The minimum legal working age is 15.  The law is effectively 
enforced by the Labor Inspectorate of the Ministry of Social 
Affairs.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

There is no legislated national minimum wage.  Instead, 
nationwide collective bargaining agreements set minimum wage 
rates by job classification for each industry.  A worker whose 
annual income falls below a poverty line (approximately $850 
per family member per month) is eligible for social service 
benefits.  The average Austrian has a high standard of living, 
and even workers at the low end of the wage scale have a 
relatively adequate minimum standard.  Although the legal 
workweek has been established at 40 hours since 1975, more than 
50 percent of the labor force enjoys collective bargaining 
agreements setting the standard workweek at 38 or 38.5 hours.

Austria has enacted extensive legislation setting occupational 
health and safety standards, under which the Labor Inspectorate 
of the Ministry of Social Affairs conducts inspections and 
ensures the effective protection of workers.  Inspectors have 
the authority to "tag" an observed safety or health risk 
without a court order, an action that effectively shuts down 
the affected machinery or process until it conforms with 
mandatory safety standards.  Workers may file complaints 
anonymously with the Labor Inspectorate, which may bring suit 
against the employer on behalf of the employee.  In practice, 
this option is rarely exercised; workers normally rely instead 
on the Chambers of Labor, which file suits on their behalf.
(###)


[end of document]

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