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U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1995 - Andorra

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1996
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1995 - Andorra, 30 January 1996, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa2336.html [accessed 26 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
ANDORRA

 

The principality of Andorra became a parliamentary democracy in 1993 when its Constitution was approved by popular referendum. Two Co-Princes representing secular and religious authorities have governed Andorra since 1278. Under the Constitution, the two Co-Princes--the President of France and the Spanish Bishop of Seu d'Urgell--serve equally as Heads of State and are each represented in Andorra by a delegate. Elections were held in December 1993 to choose members of the Consell General, the Parliament, which selects the Head of Government. The judiciary functions independently.

Andorra has no defense force. The national police have sole responsibility for internal security.

The market-based economy is dependent on those of neighboring France and Spain. With creation of the European Union internal market, however, Andorra lost its privileged duty-free status and is suffering an economic recession. Tourism is still an important source of income, but it fell dramatically during the year. Because of banking secrecy laws, the financial services sector is growing in importance.

The Government fully respected the human rights of its citizens, and the law and the judiciary provide effective means of dealing with instances of abuse.

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 disappearances.

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

The Constitution prohibits such practices, and there were no reports that officials employed them.

Prison conditions meet minimum international standards, and the Government permits visits by human rights monitors.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile, and the Government observes this prohibition.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the Government respects this provision in practice. The highest judicial body is the five-member Superior Council of Justice. One member each is appointed by: the two Co-Princes; the Head of Government; the President of the Parliament; and, collectively, members of the lower courts. Members of the judiciary are appointed for 6-year terms. The judiciary provides citizens with a fair and efficient judicial process.

There were no reports of political prisoners.

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

The Constitution provides citizens with safeguards against arbitrary interference with their "privacy, honor and reputation," and government authorities generally respect these prohibitions. Private dwellings are considered inviolable. No searches of private premises may be conducted without a judicially issued warrant. Private communications also are protected by law.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the Government respects these rights in practice. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combine to ensure freedom of speech and of the press, including academic freedom.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for these rights, and the Government respects them in practice. Since adoption of the 1993 Constitution, the Government has registered seven political parties.

c. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government respects this right in practice. The Constitution acknowledges a special relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and the State, "in accordance with Andorran tradition." The Catholic Church receives no subsidies from the Government.

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

The Constitution provides for these rights, and the Government respects them in practice.

The Government cooperates with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees. It is government policy not to expel persons having valid claims to refugee status, and there were no reports of such expulsions.

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

The Constitution provides citizens with the right to change their government peacefully, and citizens exercise this right in practice through periodic, free and fair elections held on the basis of universal suffrage.

Women have enjoyed full suffrage since 1970, but they continue to play a relatively minor role in politics. Notwithstanding the absence of formal barriers, few women have run for office; only 1 of 28 Members of Parliament is a woman, and only 2 women have occupied cabinet level positions.

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

While there are no restrictions to prevent their formation, no formal human rights organizations operate in Andorra.

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

The Constitution declares that all persons are equal before the law and prohibits discrimination on grounds of birth, race, sex, origin, religion, opinions, or any other personal or social condition, although the law grants many rights and privileges exclusively to citizens. The Government effectively enforces these provisions.

Women

No available data exists on the incidence and handling of domestic violence cases, but spousal abuse appears to be virtually nonexistent. There is no legal discrimination against women, either privately or professionally.

Children

There is no evidence of any special commitment by the Government to children's rights and welfare, although there is no indication of any problems in this area. Over the past 12 years there has been just one known case of child abuse.

People with Disabilities

There is no discrimination against disabled persons in employment, education, or in the provision of other state services. The law mandates access to new buildings for people with disabilities, and the Government enforces these provisions in practice.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Spanish nationals are the largest group of foreign residents, accounting for 47 percent of the population. Other sizeable foreign groups are Portuguese, French, and British. A small number of North African and African immigrants work mostly in agriculture and construction.

Although the Constitution states that legal residents enjoy the same rights and freedoms as Andorran citizens, immigrant workers do not believe that they have the same rights and security. They lack many social benefits paid to residents and in many cases live in difficult and crowded conditions. The cost of living is high, and workers employed in low-wage industries often cannot afford normal housing costs. Many of them live in trailers or crowded apartments, with as many as 8 or 10 people sharing quarters designed for 4. Many such workers are in Andorra on temporary work permits. These permits are valid only as long as the job for which the permit was obtained exists. A worker hired on a temporary contract loses his work permit when the contract expires. If unable to find new employment, the worker quickly becomes an undocumented alien with no visible means of support and may be deported.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

The Constitution recognizes the right of all persons "to form and maintain managerial, professional, and trade union associations without prejudice." The Constitution provides that a registry of associations be established (through future legislation) and maintained. There are no labor unions registered as yet although at least one may be in the formative stages. Strikes were illegal under the old system, and the new Constitution does not state explicitly that strikes are permitted.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Article 19 of the Constitution states that both "workers and employers have the right to defend their own economic and social interests." Parliament is charged with adopting legislation to regulate this right in order to guarantee the provision of essential services. The threat of immediate dismissal (see section 6.e. below) is a powerful deterrent to complaints from workers, especially since there is very limited unemployment insurance. This inhibits workers from organizing effectively to press their cases. Antiunion discrimination is not prohibited under current law.

There are no export processing zones.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced labor is not specifically prohibited by law, but it does not occur.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Children under the age of 18 are normally prohibited from working although in exceptional circumstances children ages 16 and 17 may be allowed to work. Child labor regulations are enforced by the Labor Inspection Office in the Ministry of Social Welfare, Public Health, and Labor. That office does not routinely inspect work places but responds to complaints.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The workweek is limited to 40 hours, although longer hours may be required. The legal maximums for overtime hours are 66 hours per month and 426 hours per year. There is an official minimum wage, set by government regulations. Other, higher wages are established by contract. The minimum wage is approximately $4.50 per hour (Ptas 600). In principle it is enforced by the Labor Inspection Office, but self-enforcement is the norm. Living costs are high and the current minimum wage is inadequate for a worker and family.

Worker complaints center on the lack of job security. Workers may be dismissed without prior notice and receive social security and health benefits for only 25 days; thereafter, there is no unemployment insurance. Foreign workers who contribute to the social security system are ineligible to receive retirement benefits if they do not remain in Andorra after retirement; however, they may apply for a lump-sum reimbursement of social security contributions when they leave the country. Retirement benefits are controlled by a board composed of Andorran nationals although they represent only a small portion of the work force. There is no special court or board to hear labor complaints.

The Government sets occupational health and safety standards, but enforcement is loose as there are no routine inspections. There is no legislation giving workers the right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardy to their continued employment.

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