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TITLE:  AUSTRIA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995




                            AUSTRIA


Austria is a constitutional democracy with a federal structure, 
a bicameral parliament, a directly elected head of state, and 
an independent judiciary.

The police and security organs are subordinated to the 
executive and judicial authorities.

Austria's highly developed market-based economy, with its mix 
of technologically advanced industry and modern agriculture, 
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.  However, there continued to be occasional 
reports of abuse by police.

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 political or other extrajudicial 
killings.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated 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.

There were occasional allegations of police brutality in 1994, 
as in previous years.  Amnesty International accused the 
Government of inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment of 
foreigners in 1992 and 1993 while they were in detention 
pending deportation.  The Interior Minister rejected the 
accusations as "referring to cases that occurred years ago 
(sic) and have since been invalidated."  In one of these cases 
the accused police officer was charged, found guilty, and fined 
under the Penal Code, which prohibits tormenting or neglecting 
a detainee.  Authorities could not verify other accusations or 
were unable to determine culpability.  Amnesty International 
continues to look into judicial investigations of the 
complaints.

     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 that in cases of 
charges of "aggressive behavior" an investigative judge may 
within that period decide to grant a prosecution request (if 
any) for detention up to 2 years pending completion of an 
investigation.  The grounds required for such investigative 
detention are specified in the law, as are conditions for 
bail.  A January 1994 reform of the law requires the 
investigative judge to evaluate an investigative detention at 2 
weeks, 1 month, and every 2 months after the arrest.  In the 
first quarter of 1994, the reform led to a 30-percent decrease 
of persons held in detention pending investigation, compared 
with the same period in 1993.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The judiciary is independent of the executive and legislative 
branches.  Judges are appointed for life, and may not (in 
principle) be removed from office.  Jury trials are prescribed 
for major offenses, and convicted persons have the right of 
appeal.  Written charges must be presented to the accused, who 
has the right to be represented by a lawyer.  Accused persons 
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, or private entities.  The Constitution protects 
the secrecy of mail and telephone communications.  A 1991 law 
introduced permanent parliamentary control over the state 
police and the military secret service.  Parliamentary 
subcommittees to oversee these organs were established in 
September 1993.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

These freedoms are provided for by the Constitution, and are 
generally respected, although stringent slander laws tend to 
discourage reports of police brutality.  Austria has a free and 
independent press, ranging from conservative to Communist.  
Publications may be removed from circulation if they violate legal provisions concerning morality or public security, but 
such cases are extremely rare.  A 1992 law that lowered the 
minimum sentences for public denial, belittlement, approval, or 
justification of Nazi crimes has had the desired effect of 
increasing the conviction rate of accused neo-Nazis.

Austrian radio and television are government monopolies but 
they present diverse points of view.  There have been no known 
complaints of either direct or subtle censorship.  A law passed 
in July 1993 allowed for establishment of private radio 
stations.  Austrians have wide access to international 
broadcasts via radio and cable television.

Freedom of academic expression is respected.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for freedom of assembly and 
association, except for Nazi organizations and activities (an 
exception stipulated also in the Austrian State Treaty of 
1955).  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 Law on 
the Formation of Associations stipulates that permission to 
form an organization may be denied if it is apparent that the 
organization will pursue the illegal activities of a prohibited 
organization.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

While the Constitution incorporates the Treaty of St. Germain, 
which restricts this freedom to religions deemed compatible 
with public safety and morality, no religions have been banned 
or hampered, and practitioners of all faiths worship free of 
governmental interference.  To qualify as a recognized 
religious organization under Austrian law, a religious group 
must register with the Government.

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

The Government does not restrict movement within or out of 
Austria (including emigration).  Citizens who leave the country 
have the right to return at any time.

As a result of a tightening of asylum regulations, applications 
continued to drop in 1994.  A report by the Office of the U.N. 
High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) designates Austria as 
one of only two Western European nations that are "not a safe 
third country," on the grounds that the Austrian Government 
denied asylum to persons charged with crimes carrying the death 
penalty, and that it incorrectly interpreted the 1951 
Convention on Refugees with regard to victims of civil wars.

Human rights organizations continue to criticize a 1993 law 
establishing a quota system for foreign residents, because it 
makes no distinction between new immigrants and those already 
resident as guest-workers, and it limits and delays family 
reunification.

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

The Constitution requires that national elections be held at 
least every 4 years.  Suffrage is universal for citizens over 
age 19, and balloting is secret.  The 183 members of 
Parliament's lower house, the National Council, are directly 
elected for 4-year terms, while the 63 members of the upper 
house, the Federal Council (whose powers are mainly advisory), 
are elected by the legislatures of the nation's nine provinces 
for terms of 4 to 6 years.  The president (head of state) is 
elected by direct popular balloting.  The chancellor (prime 
minister and head of government) is usually the leader of the 
strongest party in Parliament.  The two are usually from 
different parties and are not necessarily elected 
simultaneously.  The Government is a coalition.

Women candidates did not fare as well in the 1994 elections as 
previously, and the number of women in the National Council 
decreased from 46 to 40.  In the Cabinet, women occupy 4 of the 
16 ministerial positions.

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

The Government does not interfere with discussions or 
investigations by the media, public groups, or private 
individuals regarding allegations of improper activities on the 
part of the authorities.  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

The law provides for comprehensive protection against any of 
these kinds of discrimination in employment, provision of 
welfare benefits, and other matters.

In October four letter-bombs were mailed to widespread targets 
in Austria, three of which have foreign connections:  a 
German/Slovene publishing company; a church-run home for 
refugees; and an advisory board that assists foreigners.  It is 
generally assumed that rightwing extremists were the 
perpetrators.  Police have been investigating intensively, but 
at year's end had made no identifications of suspects.

     Women

Most legal restrictions on women's rights have been abolished.  
Women are still prohibited by law from night work in most 
occupations, and this ban is sometimes used as a pretext for 
not hiring women.  (Nurses, taxi drivers, and a few other occupations are exempted from this ban.)  Austria will enter 
the European Union (EU) in 1995, and is to harmonize its law 
with relevant EU guidelines by 2002, beginning in 1997.

Sixty percent of women between ages 15 and 60 are in the labor 
force, and their numbers are continuing to grow.  Despite 
substantial gains in women's incomes in private industry, these 
average 20 percent lower than those of men.

Women are not allowed in the Austrian military; suggestions by 
politicians that women do mandatory civilian service, as do 
men, were rejected by the Women's Affairs Ministry and women's 
organizations.

Although labor laws providing for equal treatment extend to 
women in the civil service, they remain underrepresented 
there.  To remedy this, the Women's Omnibus Law which went into 
effect in January 1993 requires hiring women of equivalent 
qualifications ahead of men in civil service areas in which 
less than 40 percent of the employees are women; but there are 
no penalties for failure to attain the 40-percent target.

Women may be awarded compensation of up to 4 months' salary if 
discriminated against in promotions because of their gender.  
The Labor Court can also award compensation from employers to 
victims of sexual harassment.

Laws prohibit violence against women, but enforcement is often 
difficult.  In cases of domestic dispute in which a woman has 
been physically abused, police may arrest the perpetrator only 
if he is caught in the act or the woman files a complaint.  A 
court order forcing a man to stay away from his wife or from 
any specified woman generally takes 3 to 6 weeks to obtain.  
Official data for 1993 show 12,377 reported cases of male 
violence against women, 529 of which were rape cases, and 142 
prison sentences for rape.  Rape is punishable by 1 to 10 
years' imprisonment.

Women's organizations estimate between 3 and 10 percent of 
women become victims of male violence each year.  The 
Government has committed itself to combating family violence, 
under a campaign publicly supported by the Chancellor.

     Children

The Government has also declared itself committed to protecting 
children's rights and welfare.  Austrian laws protect the vast 
majority of children's rights established in international 
conventions, and in some respects go beyond them.

Each provincial government, and the federal Ministry for Youth 
and Family Affairs, has an "Ombudsperson for Children and 
Adolescents" whose main function is to resolve complaints about 
violations of rights of children.

     People with Disabilities

Disabled individuals are protected by law from discrimination 
in housing, education, and employment.  Austrian law requires 
all private enterprises and state and federal government 
offices to employ 1 disabled person for every 25 to 45 
employees, depending on the type of work.  Employers who do not 
meet this requirement must pay a fee to the Government, and the 
proceeds help finance services for the disabled such as 
training programs, wage subsidies, and workplace adaptations.  
No federal law mandates access for the physically disabled; 
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, 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 1994, 53 percent 
of the work force was organized in 14 national unions, all 
belonging to the Austrian Trade Union Federation (OGB), which 
has a highly centralized leadership structure.  Individual 
unions and the OGB 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 for in 
the Constitution or in 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 unofficial system of "social partnership" 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.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Unions have the right to organize and bargain collectively.  
Almost all large companies, private or 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 OGB 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 this are required to reinstate workers fired for 
union activities.  Austrian labor and business representatives 
remain in disagreement over how to comply with the obligation 
under the International Labor Organization's Convention 98 to 
provide legal protection to employees against arbitrary 
dismissals in firms with five employees or fewer.

Typically, legal disputes between employer and employees 
regarding job-related matters are handled by a special 
arbitration court for social affairs.  The OGB is exclusively 
responsible for collective bargaining.  The leadership of the 
Chambers and the OGB 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 minimums by job 
classification for each industry.  A worker whose annual income 
falls below a poverty line (approximately $900 a month for a 
married couple) is eligible for social security benefits.  The 
average Austrian has a high standard of living, and even the 
minimum wages are sufficient to permit a decent living for 
workers and their families.

Although the legal workweek has been established at 40 hours 
since 1975, more than 50 percent of the labor force is covered 
by collective bargaining agreements that set the workweek at 38 
or 38.5 hours.

Extensive legislation, strictly enforced by the Labor 
Inspectorate of the Ministry of Social Affairs, provides for 
mandatory occupational health and safety standards.  A law 
effective January 1, 1995, extends such protection to all 
workers.  Workers may file complaints anonymously with the 
Labor Inspectorate, which may bring suit against the employer 
on behalf of the employee; but this option is rarely exercised, 
as workers normally rely instead on the Chambers of Labor, 
which file suits on their behalf.


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[end of document]

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