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U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - Andorra

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1994
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - Andorra, 30 January 1994, available at: [accessed 25 May 2016]
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.

The Principality of Andorra became a parliamentary democracy in March 1993 when its Constitution was approved by popular referendum. Andorra had been governed by two co-princes representing secular and religious authority since 1278. Under the new Constitution, the two Co-Princes, the President of France and the Spanish Bishop of Seu d'Urgell, serve coequally as Heads of State. Elections were held in December to choose members of the Consell General, the Parliament, which selects the Head of Government. Members of the judiciary are appointed for 6-year terms. Andorra has no defense forces and only a small internal police force.

For centuries Andorra's economy was based on agriculture, mainly sheep raising and tobacco growing. In recent years Andorra thrived on its duty-free status within the European Community (EC). Tourism boomed and dozens of luxury stores, hotels, and restaurants were built. With creation of the EC Unified Market, however, Andorra lost its privileged status and suffers from economic recession. Tourism is still an important source of income, especially during the skiing season, but has fallen dramatically. Due to banking secrecy laws, the financial service sector is growing in importance. Many immigrant workers live in poor conditions.

In 1989 the European Parliament (EP) concluded that human rights, as they are defined in the European Convention on Human Rights, were generally respected in Andorra. However, the EP expressed uncertainty regarding the exercise of the right of association, noting that although not strictly forbidden, there were no political parties. It expressed concern also about the lack of labor unions and the absence of many social benefits common to other countries in the European Community. With the approval of a new Constitution in 1993, a process of potentially significant political change commenced. The Constitution proclaims as basic principles respect for the promotion of liberty, equality, justice, tolerance, defense of human rights, and dignity of the person. The rights of free association and assembly are guaranteed, but the Constitution is unclear regarding the right to strike.

Only Andorran citizens, who represent 18 percent of the total population, are eligible to vote. Until 1992 only those born in Andorra of at least one Andorran parent could become citizens. That was broadened in October 1992 to include long-term residents and spouses of Andorran citizens.


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

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There was no evidence of any form of political or other extrajudicial killing. There have been no reports of deaths due to excessive police brutality.

b. Disappearance

There are no known instances of politically motivated disappearances.

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

The Constitution guarantees all persons the "right to physical and moral integrity" and states that no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. These rights are honored in practice. There have been no cases of torture, cruel and inhuman punishment, or grievous injury by police or prison personnel. Penal conditions are exemplary.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

There are constitutional guarantees against arbitrary arrest or detention. Charges must be brought within 48 hours of arrest. The Constitution protects citizens' rights to due process of law. It provides for the accused's right to legal counsel, and free legal counsel is provided to indigents. It also provides for the presumption of innocence, the right to trial within a reasonable time (prisoners awaiting trial may be held only up to 3 months), to be informed of charges and not to testify against oneself, and the right to appeal.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution calls for an independent judiciary, and in practice it is free of executive branch interference. Justice is organized and administered by 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 (known as the Syndic) and collectively by members of the lower courts (magistrates and bailiffs). Constitutional issues and appeals are decided by a separate Supreme Court. A public prosecution system enforces the law and supervises the police.

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

The Constitution protects Andorrans from unlawful interference with their "privacy, honor, and reputation." Private dwellings are considered inviolable. No searches of any private premises may be conducted without a juridically issued warrant. Private communications also are protected by law.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

Freedom of expression, of communication, and of information is constitutionally protected and respected in practice. Preliminary censorship or any other means of ideological control on the part of the public authorities is prohibited. One radio station operates in Andorra, and two newspapers and three weekly magazines are published there.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution respects the right to meet and assemble for any lawful purpose. Under the new Constitution adopted in March, political parties are permitted for the first time. Political parties and workers' organizations tend to be centered on political personalities rather than formal party groupings.

c. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, and it is respected in practice. The Constitution also 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

There are no restrictions on domestic or foreign travel or on emigration or repatriation. Andorra has no formal asylum policy, and at year's end had no political refugess in residence. However, Andorra has a long tradition of providing asylum to refugees. Asylum requests are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

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

Andorra has made sweeping political changes in the last decade or so, progressing from a basically feudal system to a parliamentary democracy. It had been governed by two Co-Princes since 1278 when the Principality was formed by agreement between the Spanish Bishop of Seu d'Urgell and the French Count de Foix. The French title passed to the kings of Navarre and then to the kings of France (1607). Andorra's feudal status caused the French to break their ties following the French Revolution, but in 1806 Napoleon reestablished the link at Andorra's request. The title of co-prince devolved onto the President of France. The Co-Princes are represented in Andorra by delegates (delegados); in addition, the French and Spanish Governments now have ambassadors in Andorra's capital, Andorra la Vella.

Andorra's Parliament dates from 1419. The Consell de la Terra was created to deal with abuses by the Co-Princes. The Consell General, which replaced it in 1868, broadened the participation of Andorrans in their own affairs. Elections have been held every 4 years to select four representatives from each of Andorra's seven parishes. The Consell is presided over by the Syndic and, since 1981, elects the head of government.

The establishment of the Executive Council in 1981 was a major step toward democracy. The Council, composed of the Head of Government and four counselors, took over the day-to-day governing of the country. However, the Co-Princes, Consell General, and Head of Government deadlocked more than once over proposed changes. A draft Constitution clearly separating executive, legislative, and judicial powers was finally completed 12 years later. More than 70 percent of eligible voters participated in the referendum which approved the new Constitution in March. Elections were held in December for new members of the Consell General. The Consell General selected a new Head of Government, Oscar Ribas, in January 1994.

Women have played a relatively minor role in Andorran politics. They have enjoyed full suffrage only since 1970. Few women have run for office in the years since, and only two have held cabinet-level posts in the Government. Only 1 of the 28 Deputies in the new Consell General is a woman. There are no formal barriers to the participation of women in Andorran politics; however, it is a conservative society, resistant to social change, and access to its closed world of politics is very difficult.

A most important change brought about by the new Constitution was the partial democratization of the Consell General. Previously, representatives were elected by parish, which gave more weight to the less populous parishes. In some cases the differences were quite substantial. Under the new arrangement half will be elected by parish and half according to population.

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

While there are no government restrictions to prevent it, no group to monitor human rights in the country has been formed.

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

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

Until 1992 only those born in Andorran territory to at least one Andorran parent were considered citizens. Under new legislation, citizenship may be granted to those born to foreign parents and living in Andorra since 1975, to those living continuously in Andorra since prior to January 1960, and to those married to Andorrans, provided they have lived in Andorra continuously for 3 years. The law does not permit dual nationality. The new Constitution grants noncitizens the right to own businesses, previously not allowed.

The largest group of foreign residents are Spanish nationals, who make up 47 percent of the population. Other considerable foreign groups are the French, Portuguese, British, and Italian. A relatively small number of North African and African immigrant workers are employed mostly in agriculture and construction.

Immigrant workers do not enjoy equal rights with Andorran citizens. They lack many social benefits paid to residents and in many cases live in deplorable conditions. The cost of living in Andorra is quite high, and workers employed in low-wage industries often cannot afford the 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 exists for which the permit was obtained. 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 is therefore deportable.


There is no legal discrimination against women, either privately or professionally. There are no available data on the incidence and handling of domestic violence cases. (See also Section 3.)


There is no evidence of any special commitment to children's rights and welfare, although there is no indication of any problems in this area.

People with Disabilities

Some, but not all, public buildings and public places provide facilities for handicapped access. Government spokesmen affirm that there is no discrimination against people with disabilities.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

Article 18 of 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 is to be established (through future legislation) and maintained. At year's end, there were no labor unions in Andorra. Though government officials said this was because no organizations had applied for recognition, the nonofficial Sindicato Andorrano de Trabajadores (Andorran Workers' Union - SAT) reported that it did apply for official recognition last spring, but there was no response to the application. The SAT plans to reapply after the new government is in place. Strikes were illegal under the old system, and the new Constitution does not state explicitly that strikes are permitted. This issue is to be addressed by a law on worker rights which was under preparation at year's end.

b. The Right To Organize and Bargain Collectively

Article 19 of the Constitution states both "workers and employers have the right to defend their own economic and social interests." There is an official minimum wage, set by government regulations. Other, higher wages are established by contract. The Parliament is charged with adopting legislation to regulate conditions governing the exercise of this right so as to guarantee the functioning of essential services to the community. Unbiased observers note that the threat of immediate dismissal is a powerful deterrent to any complaints from workers, especially as there is no unemployment insurance. This strongly inhibits workers from organizing effectively to press their case. Antiunion discrimination is not prohibited under current law; this issue, too, is to be addressed in the draft legislation on workers' rights.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced labor is not specifically probibited by law, but it has never been an issue. There is no forced labor in Andorra.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Children under the age of 18 are normally prohibited from working although in exceptional circumstances children who are only 16 may be allowed to work. Child labor regulations are enforced by the Labor Inspection Office within the Ministry of Social Welfare, Public Health, and Labor. That office does not routinely inspect workplaces 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. The minimum wage is approximately $4.50 per hour, which is nationally mandated. In principle, it is enforced by the Labor Inspection Office, but self-enforcement by custom is the norm. The current minimum wage is inadequate for a worker and family in Andorra, where living costs are quite high.

Complaints center on the lack of job security – workers may be dismissed without 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 very 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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