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

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 - Liechtenstein, 30 January 1994, available at: [accessed 25 November 2015]
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 Liechtenstein is a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy whose present Constitution dates from 1921. The reigning Prince is the Head of State. All legislation adopted by the unicameral legislature (Landtag) must have his concurrence. The Government, whose members are proposed by the Landtag and appointed by the Prince, is responsible for the entire administration of the State. After the Head of Government lost a confidence vote in September, Parliament voted, pursuant to constitutional procedure, to ask the Prince to remove him from office. Instead, the Prince, citing the lack of legitimacy for any new government head, dissolved Parliament and scheduled elections for October. The Vaterlaendishe Union won an absolute majority of seats but chose to govern again with its former coalition partner, Fortschrittliche Burgerliche Partei.

The Principality's police force maintains internal order and is aided by a part-time auxiliary police force. Both organizations are under the control of the elected Government and operate under procedures consistent with respect for human rights.

Despite its small size (29,386 population of which over one-third are noncitizen resident foreigners) and limited natural resources, Liechtenstein has developed during the last 3 decades from a rural agrarian society into a prosperous, highly industrialized, free enterprise economy with an important service sector. Through a 1923 treaty, it participates in a customs union with Switzerland and uses the Swiss franc as its national currency. Liechtenstein voted on December 13, 1992 to join the European Economic Area (EEA). Unemployment stood at 1.2 percent in 1993. The people of Liechtenstein enjoy a very high standard of living.

Individual human rights are ensured by the Constitution and protected in practice.


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

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There is no history of politically motivated or other extrajudicial killing, and none is known to have occurred in 1993.

b. Disappearance

There have been no known abductions, secret arrests, or clandestine detentions.

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

Torture and cruel punishment are prohibited by law, and there were no reports of violations.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention is guaranteed by law and observed in practice. Any person detained by the authorities must appear before an examining magistrate not later than 24 hours after arrest. The magistrate must either state formal charges or release the prisoner. The right to legal counsel is guaranteed. If the accused cannot afford representation, the State provides the cost of defense. Release on personal recognizance or bail is granted unless the examining magistrate believes the person is a danger to society or will not appear for trial. There is no provision in the legal system for exile, and it does not occur.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The judiciary is separated from the executive and legislative branches. The Constitution provides for public trials and judicial appeal. Liechtenstein has a three-tier system of courts: Lower Court, High Court, and Supreme Court. The Constitution provides also for an administrative court, which hears appeals against government decisions. A State Court, which protects the rights accorded by the Constitution, decides on conflicts of jurisdiction between the law courts and the administrative authorities and acts as a disciplinary court for members of the Government.

There are no political prisoners.

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

The Constitution provides for personal liberty and the inviolability of the home and of letters and telephone conversations, including the freedom from wiretaps. Police need a judicial warrant to search private property. No violations have been reported.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

An independent press, effective judiciary, and democratic political system combine to ensure freedom of speech and press. There are two newspapers, each representing the interests of one of the two major political parties. There are no private television or radio broadcasting facilities within the Principality, but residents receive radio and television broadcasts from neighboring Switzerland, Austria, and Germany, and many are also cable television subscribers.

There is one government-owned television station. A suit brought to protest the exclusive use of the channel by the Government during the 1992 EEA debate was thrown out of court. The Government granted permission for a private radio station to be established in 1994, contingent on 50-percent ownership by citizens of Liechtenstein. Academic freedom is respected.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The freedoms of assembly and association are protected by the Constitution and observed in practice. Although permits must be obtained for public meetings and demonstrations, they are routinely given.

c. Freedom of Religion

Liechtenstein enjoys religious freedom. The state church is Roman Catholic, and 87 percent of the population practices that faith. The finances of the state church are integrated directly into the budgets of the national and local government. Catholic or Protestant religious education is a compulsory part of the school curriculum, although parents may request government permission to exempt their offspring. Other denominations are entitled to practice their faiths and to hold religious services. Foreign clergy are free to perform their duties.

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

Citizens have the freedom to travel in or outside the country and can emigrate without difficulty. There is no restriction on repatriation of citizens from abroad. As Liechtenstein has no airport or international train station, it is not a country of first asylum. The few applicants for asylum are returned to the authorities of one of the two neighboring entry points, Switzerland or Austria. Liechtenstein seeks assurances from the two countries that asylees will not be forced to return to countries in which they have reason to fear persecution.

Liechtenstein's asylum policy was put to the test in October, when 18 Tibetan refugees arrived in the country, claiming persecution in Tibet. They were granted permission to stay for 3 months. The Prime Minister said that they would not be returned to Tibet. Liechtenstein is discussing the matter with Switzerland and Austria. If the refugees make formal application for asylum, it would require an act of Parliament to grant the request.

Despite the lack of asylum law, Liechtenstein does make provision for refugees on a case-by-case basis. In 1993 Liechtenstein accepted 44 Bosnian refugees who will be permitted to remain at least until the violence in their homeland ends.

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

The monarchy is hereditary in the male line. The unicameral legislature, comprising 25 deputies, is elected by the people every 4 years by proportional representation. The Constitution provides for the right to vote, which is universal, equal, secret, and direct. A coalition of the two major political parties, the Vaterlaendische Union and the Fortschrittliche Burgerpartei, has formed the Government since 1938. Although there are historical differences between these two parties, as well as disagreements over some local issues, a high degree of political consensus exists. The rights of emerging opposition and splinter groups are respected. For the first time in 55 years, in 1992 a third party, the Freie Liste, which focuses on environmental issues, entered the legislature.

In late August Head of Government Marcus Buechel was asked by his own party to step down because he allegedly misinformed and ignored them. He refused to resign, even after a parliamentary vote of no confidence on September 14. Subsequently the Parliament voted, pursuant to constitutional procedure, to ask the Prince to remove Buechel. The Prince instead dissolved Parliament and called for new elections. The elections were held in late October. The Vaterlaendishe Union won an absolute majority of parliamentary seats but chose to govern again in coalition with its former Fortschrittliche Burgerliche Partei partners Mario Frick was installed as Prime Minister on December 15.

The electorate regularly makes use of its right to participate in initiatives and referendum. Women gained the right to vote in national elections in 1984 and have exercised this right. The Landtag presently has two female members. The Executive Council of Five contains two women, one of whom participated also in the previous government. All major parties have committees to address the concerns of women.

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

The only known human rights group based in Liechtenstein, Justitia, is an informal group of several persons who monitor prison conditions and assist foreign workers with immigration matters. Justitia was founded by church members to address the needs of Liechtenstein's marginalized persons and operates without government restriction.

There have been no requests for the investigation of human rights violations.

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

There is no legal discrimination on the basis of race, language, or social status. There were no reported incidents of abuse of minorities. Of the resident foreigners, 87 percent are from Switzerland, Germany, Austria, and Italy. The remainder is composed of citizens of Turkey, Spain, Greece, and the former Yugoslavia. It is possible for foreigners who have been resident in Liechtenstein for 5 years to become citizens through an acceptance vote of the local community. The process is expedited for wives and children of citizens.


A 1992 constitutional amendment guaranteed women equality under the law. All relevant statutes concerning citizenship and residency rights, social security and unemployment insurance, education, taxation, and conditions in the workplace are to be revised to conform to this equal rights amendment and must be presented to Parliament before 1996. Revisions of the law became linked to Liechtenstein's entry into the EEA, which was projected to take place in mid-1994. For instance, legislation to give women equal pay for equal work is to enter into force with Liechtenstein's entry into the EEA.

Several groups monitor and promote women's rights. They report that the Government is cooperative with respect to their concerns and in some cases provides financial support. The social and traditional discrimination that still persists hinders opportunities for women in fields that have been traditionally dominated by men, and at present there are no legal means to redress discrimination. Wife beating is prohibited by law and is prosecuted in practice. Liechtenstein has facilities through which women who are victims of violence may obtain help and counseling. In 1993, 536 women were sheltered overnight because of violence or threat of violence from a spouse or partner.


There is no pattern of societal abuse against children. The Government supports programs intended to protect the rights of children and matches contributions made to the four nongovernmental organizations involved in children's rights concerns.

People with Disabilities

Liechtenstein has not legislated accessibility for the disabled. Government programs to provide supplemental financial support for disabled persons are being revised. An organization dedicated to promoting the interests and rights of the disabled works together with international disabled rights organizations.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

Labor-management relations in Liechtenstein are conducted according to the Swiss Code of Obligations. All workers, including foreign workers in Liechtenstein, have the freedom to associate, join the unions of their choice, and select their union representatives. The existing social peace, in part due to the high standard of living, has resulted in a low demand for organized worker representation. The one trade union comprises 13 percent of the work force but looks after the interest of nonmembers as well. It is a member of the World Confederation of Labor, although it is represented at meetings by the Swiss National Christian Trade Union.

Workers have the right to strike except in certain work categories, as outlined in work contracts and agreed to by the employees concerned. Labor unrest is virtually nonexistent. No strikes are known to have taken place in the last 25 years.

Liechtenstein's law does not have specific protections for strikers. Employers may dismiss employees for "refusal to work." Such dismissals may be contested.

b. The Right To Organize and Bargain Collectively

The law provides workers the right to organize and bargain collectively. This right is recognized for all professions. Because of Liechtenstein's reliance on Swiss practice, collective bargaining agreements are, as a practical matter, generally adapted from similar agreements already negotiated by Swiss industry. Agreements so adopted have not been contested in the past 25 years. The last such agreement came into force in January 1989 in the metals industry.

There are no export processing zones.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced or compulsory labor is prohibited by law and does not exist in practice.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The employment of children under the age of 15 is prohibited. Children are required to remain in school for 9 years. Child labor laws are enforced by the Government, and adolescent workers are provided special protection by law.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

There is no national minimum wage; wages are high. The law sets the maximum workweek at 45 hours for white collar workers and employees of industrial firms. The maximum in other areas is 50 hours. In practice, the average workweek is 40 to 43 hours. Workers under the age of 20 receive a minimum of 5

weeks of vacation. After they are 20 they receive a minimum of 4 weeks.

Occupational health and safety standards are set by law and protect the worker in the workplace. A safe working environment is enforced by the Department for Worker Safety. The trade union also monitors working conditions. There were no allegations of worker rights abuses, other than disputes over contractual obligations.

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