U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2006 - Liechtenstein
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Author||Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor|
|Publication Date||6 March 2007|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2006 - Liechtenstein , 6 March 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/45f0568e20.html [accessed 31 July 2014]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
March 6, 2007
The Principality of Liechtenstein, with a population of approximately 35,000, is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary government. The unicameral Landtag (parliament) nominates, and the monarch appoints, the members of the government. A two-party coalition government was formed after free and fair parliamentary elections in March 2005. The civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces.
The government generally respected the human rights of its citizens, and the law and judiciary provided effective means of addressing individual instances of abuse. There were reports of violence against women, including spousal abuse, and reports of child abuse. The authorities dealt effectively with these matters.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The constitution and law prohibit such practices, and there were no reports that government officials employed them.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison conditions generally met international standards, and the government permitted visits by independent human rights observers. The most recent visit was in 2004, when the Council of Europe's (COE) commissioner for human rights visited the only prison and reported that it generally met international standards.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government generally observed these prohibitions.
Role of the Police and Security Apparatus
The security forces are composed of the regular and auxiliary police under the Ministry of Interior. There is no standing military force. Corruption and impunity were not problems. Police automatically report allegations of misconduct to the prosecutor's office, and any person subject to wrongful police action also can file a complaint with the chief of police. A failure of either the prosecutor's office or the chief of police to open an investigation can be appealed to the government and, subsequently, to the administrative courts.
Arrest and Detention
Police arrest a suspect based on an arrest warrant issued by the national court. Within 48 hours of arrest, police must bring suspects before an examining magistrate who must either file formal charges or order release; authorities respected this right in practice. Release on personal recognizance or bail is permitted unless the examining magistrate has reason to believe that the suspect is a danger to society or would not appear for trial. The law grants suspects the right to legal counsel of their own choosing, and counsel was provided at government expense to indigent persons. However, the law grants the suspect access to a lawyer only after an examining magistrate has filed formal charges. During police detention, visits are commonly not allowed, although in practice suspects may contact family members. During investigative detention, visits can be monitored to prevent tampering with evidence.
The COE's commissioner for human rights in May 2005 criticized the law for not providing prompt access to legal counsel at the outset of detention.
In 2004 the UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) expressed similar concerns about shortcomings in the protection of arrested or detained persons, noting that the law does not require police to inform them of their right to remain silent, to be brought promptly before a judge, and to have access to legal counsel. In response to these criticisms, police issued internal regulations in 2004 instructing staff to grant suspects access to a lawyer upon request.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence in practice.
The judicial system has three tiers: a court of first instance, an appellate court, and the Supreme Court. The national court is the court of first instance in all civil and criminal matters. In addition, there are two courts outside the three tiers: the administrative court hears appeals against government decisions, and the state court reviews the constitutionality of laws, ordinances, and international treaties. It also protects the rights accorded by the constitution, decides conflicts of jurisdiction between the law courts and the administrative authorities, and acts as a disciplinary court for members of the government.
In 2004 the UNHRC expressed concern that the procedure for appointment and tenure of judges may not be compatible with the principle of the independence of the judiciary.
The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Trials involving minor offenses are heard by a single judge, more serious or complex cases by a panel of judges, and the most serious cases, including murder, by a public jury. The law grants defendants the right to legal counsel of their own choosing, and counsel was provided at government expense to indigent persons. Defendants may challenge witnesses or evidence and present witnesses or evidence on their own behalf. Defendants are presumed innocent and have access to government-held evidence relevant to their case. Those convicted have the right to appeal, ultimately to the Supreme Court.
Political Prisoners and Detainees
There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.
Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
There is an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The constitution and law prohibit such actions, and the government generally respected these prohibitions in practice.
2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The constitution and law provide for freedom of speech and of the press, and the government generally respected these rights in practice. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to ensure freedom of speech and of the press.
There were no government restrictions on access to the Internet or reports that the government monitored e-mail or Internet chatrooms. Individuals and groups could engage in the peaceful expression of views via the Internet, including by electronic mail.
Academic Freedom and Cultural Events
There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights in practice.
c. Freedom of Religion
The constitution and law provide for freedom of religion, and the government generally respected this right in practice.
The Roman Catholic Church is the official state church; its finances are integrated directly into the budgets of the national and local governments. The government also provided financial support to the Protestant, Christian Orthodox, and Muslim communities. Smaller religious groups are eligible to apply for grants as associations of foreigners or specific projects.
Roman Catholic or Protestant religious education was compulsory in all primary schools, but the authorities routinely granted individual exemptions for children whose parents requested them.
The COE's commissioner for human rights in May 2005 criticized government policy for favoring the Catholic Church over other religious communities in the distribution of state subsidies, and urged the government to review its policies to ensure an equitable distribution of these funds. In 2004 the UNHRC also expressed concern about the unequal treatment of different religious denominations in the allocation of public funds. In November the government hosted another session of the working group seeking consensus on the redefinition of the relationship between the state and the Roman Catholic Church. The issue of state subsidies to religious communities formed part of these government-sponsored discussions.
Societal Abuses and Discrimination
In a 2004 report the UNHRC found evidence of religious intolerance and discrimination against Muslims (see section 5).
According to 2002 data, there were 18 members in the Jewish community. (After 2002 the government discontinued collecting statistics on religious affiliation.) There were no reports of anti-Semitic attacks, but some acts of vandalism by right-wing extremists had anti-Semitic overtones (see section 5).
For a more detailed discussion, see the 2006 International Religious Freedom Report.
d. Freedom of Movement within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The law provides for these rights, and the government generally respected them in practice.
The law does not prohibit forced exile, but the government did not employ it.
Protection of Refugees
The laws provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status in accordance with the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 protocol, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. In practice the government provided protection against refoulement, the return of persons to a country where they feared persecution. The government granted refugee status or asylum.
The government provided temporary protection to individuals who may not qualify as refugees under the 1951 convention and the 1967 protocol, and provided it to two persons during the year. The government also provided 37 residency permits on humanitarian grounds.
The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees and asylum seekers.
A trilateral agreement with Switzerland and Austria requires the government to return persons to the respective authorities if they have entered from those countries without permission.
3. Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
The constitution and law provide citizens with the right to change their government peacefully, and citizens exercised this right in practice through periodic, free, and fair elections based on universal suffrage.
The monarchy is hereditary in the male line. Prince Hans Adam II is the head of state. Since 2004 Hereditary Prince Alois has taken on the duties of head of state, exercising the rights of office on behalf of the reigning prince. All legislation enacted by the parliament must have the concurrence of the monarch and the prime minister.
Elections and Political Participation
Parliamentary elections, considered free and fair, were held in March 2005; the center-right Progressive Citizens' Party won 12 seats, the center-left Fatherland Union won 10 seats, and the green-alternative Free List won three seats in the 25-member parliament.
Individuals and parties could freely declare their candidacy and stand for election.
There were six women in the 25-seat parliament and one woman in the five-seat cabinet.
There were no known members of minorities in the government.
Government Corruption and Transparency
There were no reports of government corruption during the year.
The law requires the government to inform the public of its activities, and government information was freely available to all persons living in the country, including domestic and foreign media.
4. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
A few domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were cooperative and responsive to their views.
5. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, gender, language, or social status. The law also prohibits public incitement to violence or public agitation or insult directed against a race, people, or ethnic group.
The law prohibits all forms of domestic violence and provides for restraining orders against violent family members. However, there were reports of violence against women, including spousal abuse. According to police, there were 28 police interventions in cases of domestic violence during the year; five aggressors were prevented from re-entering the family home for 10 days and 10 for a further period of three months. The government may file charges without a complaint from the victim. In 2005 nine women and 10 children spent a total of 1,088 nights at Frauenhaus, a woman's shelter. That nongovernmental organization (NGO) reported conducting 97 counseling contacts related to domestic violence. Frauenhaus provided both counseling and refuge for battered women (including nonresidents) and dependent children.
In 2004 the government concluded a joint project with Swiss and Austrian neighboring regions to combat domestic violence with awareness-raising activities, and issued a best-practice guideline in several languages for affected friends and relatives.
Rape, including spousal rape, is a criminal offense, and the government effectively prosecuted those accused of such crimes. Spousal rape has the same penalties as rape under other circumstances. The sentence may be reduced if the victim decides to remain with the abusive spouse. There were two investigations for rape resulting in one prosecution during the year. Police statistics do not separately record spousal rape.
Prostitution is illegal; however, police tolerated it in the country's few nightclubs, as long as it did not cause public offense. Leading a person into prostitution is punishable by up to six months in prison, heavy fines, or both, and up to three years in prison if the victim was under 18.
NGOs believed that trafficking in women occurred; however, no specific cases were documented during the year (see section 5, Trafficking).
Sexual harassment is illegal and punishable by up to six months in prison or a fine, and the government effectively enforced these prohibitions. Employers are required to take reasonable measures to prevent sexual harassment; failing to do so may entail damages to a victim of up to $32,000 (40,000 Swiss francs). There were 14 investigations for sexual harassment during the year, resulting in four prosecutions and three convictions.
Under the law, women enjoy the same rights as men, including rights under family law, property law, and in the judicial system. The Equal Opportunity Office and the Commission on Equality between Women and Men worked to eliminate all forms of gender discrimination. However, societal discrimination continued to limit opportunities for women in fields traditionally dominated by men. Men earned more than women, and women generally did not receive equal pay for equal work. Implementing a European Union directive, parliament in May unanimously adopted amendments to the labor contract law and the equal opportunity law to combat gender discrimination in the workplace.
The government was committed to children's rights and welfare and amply funded a system of public education and health care. Education is universal and compulsory until the ninth grade; it is free through the end of high school. Virtually all school-age children attend school. Approximately 50 percent complete professional, vocational, or technical training, with another 30 percent going on to earn higher-level specialized or university degrees.
The government provided free health care for all children under the age of 16.
There were some reports of abuse of children. During the year there were five prosecutions but no convictions for child abuse. In April 2005 the commission for the coordination of professionals in cases of sexual offenses against children published a brochure for professionals likely to be confronted with child abuse that included best-practice guidelines to facilitate the exchange of information among all parties. Each year the commission generally is contacted in 12 to 14 cases of suspected sexual abuse.
Possession of child pornographic material is a statutory offense. The government has extended the statute of limitations for sexual offenses against children. In January 2005 an amendment to the Code of Criminal Procedure was implemented that takes special account of the protective needs of young victims of crimes or victims of sexual offenses.
The government supported programs to protect the rights of children and made financial contributions to three NGOs that monitored children's rights. The Office for Social Services oversaw the implementation of government-supported programs for children and youth.
Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits trafficking in persons, and there were no reports that persons were trafficked to, from, or within the country; however, some NGOs believed that trafficking in women occurred but was not reported.
In May 2005 the COE's commissioner for human rights expressed concern that the temporary immigration status, together with the precarious economic situation, of the majority of foreign cabaret dancers increased their risk of falling prey to trafficking networks. The commissioner called on the authorities to be vigilant in monitoring respect of contractual obligations by nightclub owners. The government established an expert working group on public assistance to victims of crime, including victims of trafficking.
Persons with Disabilities
Although the law does not prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities, there were no reports of discrimination against such persons in employment, education, access to health care, or in the provision of other state services. In October the parliament adopted a new Equal Opportunity Law for Persons with Disabilities which requires that all public buildings be accessible to persons with disabilities within five years.
In 2004 the UNHRC expressed concern about the persistence of xenophobia and intolerance, especially against Muslims and persons of Turkish origin.
Right-wing extremists, including skinheads, were publicly active during the year, but police estimated their numbers to be no more than 30 to 40. There were some reports during the year of skinhead incidents, but none involving racially motivated assaults on foreigners or ethnic minorities. In April unknown vandals all over the country blackened a large number of billboard advertisements of a government anti-racism campaign, rendering them illegible and covering some of them with right-wing extremist propaganda.
The government continued to monitor right-wing groups. A government advisory commission attempted to raise public awareness in order to address the problem of acts of violence in public areas such as schools and playgrounds. A commission was working on guidelines to reduce violence at public events.
6. Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The law provides that all workers, including foreigners, are free to associate, join unions of their choice, and select their own union representatives, and workers exercised these rights in practice. Due to the country's small size and population, there was only one trade union, which represented approximately 13 percent of the work force. The law does not prohibit antiunion discrimination, but there were no reports that antiunion discrimination occurred.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The law allows unions to conduct their activities without interference, and the government protected this right in practice. The law provides for the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively. About 25 percent of workers were covered by collective bargaining agreements. Workers have the right to strike except in certain essential services. No strikes occurred during the year; there were no reports of denials of the right to strike.
There are no export processing zones.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, including by children, and there were no reports that such practices occurred.
d. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
There are laws and policies to protect children from exploitation in the workplace. The law prohibits the employment of children younger than 16 years of age; exceptions may be made for the limited employment of children age 14 and over and for those who leave school after completing nine years of compulsory education. Children age 14 and older may be employed in light duties for not more than nine hours per week during the school year and 15 hours per week at other times.
In May 2005 a new ordinance was implemented prohibiting labor that subjects children to physical, psychological, moral, or sexual abuse. There are no reports that any cases have been brought under the ordinance.
The government devoted adequate resources and oversight to child labor policies, and the Department for Worker Safety of the Office of the National Economy effectively supervised compliance with the law. The department completed 253 onsite inspections during the year and found no major violations of the law.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
There was no national minimum wage; however, the average daily wage provided a decent standard of living for a worker and family.
The law sets the maximum workweek at 45 hours for white-collar workers and employees of industrial firms and sales personnel, and 48 hours for all other workers. The law provides for a daily mandatory one-hour break and an 11-hour rest period for full-time workers; with few exceptions, Sunday work was not allowed. Pay for overtime was required to be at least 25 percent higher than the standard rate and overtime generally was restricted to two hours per day. Over a period of four months the average total work week including overtime may not exceed 48 hours.
The law sets occupational health and safety standards, and the Department for Worker Safety generally enforced these provisions effectively. The law provides for the right of workers to remove themselves from work situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their continued employment, and workers exercised this right in practice.