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

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 - Luxembourg, 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.

Luxembourg is a constitutional monarchy with a democratic parliamentary form of government. Executive authority is exercised by the Prime Minister. The role of the Grand Duke, the titular Head of State, is largely ceremonial. The Chamber of Deputies, a unicameral legislature, encompasses the full political spectrum. The Council of State, an appointed body, reviews legislation before it is given final approval by the Chamber.

The police and gendarmerie who maintain order are subordinate to governmental and judicial authority. Judicial and penal systems are open, efficient, and fair.

Luxembourg has a prosperous free market economy with active industrial and services sectors. Its standard of living and level of social benefits are high.

Human rights are valued and safeguarded. Individual rights are protected by law and respected in practice by both the Government and the populace. Luxembourg's large foreign population (just over 30 percent) is well integrated into the society and the economy. National practices in apparent conflict with human rights are quickly and publicly addressed.


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

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

Killing for political reasons did not occur.

b. Disappearance

There were no known instances of politically motivated disappearance.

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

Torture or other unusual punishment is prohibited by law and is not known to occur. An allegation by a resident Spanish foreign national charging police use of excessive force is being investigated to determine whether the police acted outside the law.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Due process is provided by law and observed in practice. Except in cases of hot pursuit, judicial warrants are required for arrests. Detainees must be charged and must appear before a judge within 24 hours of arrest. Prisoners are not held incommunicado, and immediate access to an attorney is granted. Those who are charged are held pending trial or released on bail at the judge's discretion. Exile is never imposed.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Luxembourg has an independent and fair judicial system with the right of appeal. Civilians are not tried in military courts. All defendants have access to legal counsel, at public expense if necessary. All charges are formally and publicly stated. Defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty. They have the right to public trial, cross-examination of witnesses, and presentation of evidence. Either the defendant or the prosecutor may appeal a ruling. An appeal results in a completely new judicial procedure, with the possibility that a sentence may be increased or decreased. There are no political prisoners.

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

The right to privacy is protected by law and respected in practice. A judicial warrant is required to enter a private residence, to monitor private correspondence, or to conduct electronic surveillance.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

Freedoms of speech and press are legally protected and respected in practice. Print media are privately owned and free of governmental interference. The privately owned national radio and television company has exclusive rights for television broadcasting within Luxembourg. The company is subject to governmental oversight but functions independently. A newly instituted permit system allows the establishment of other private radio stations. Radio and television broadcasts from neighboring countries are freely available.

Censorship is not legally imposed, but societal consensus on propriety largely precludes dissemination of extreme pornography or of sensitive information concerning national security or the royal family. Academic freedom is respected.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Freedom of peaceful assembly and association is provided by law and exists in practice. No limitations are imposed on orderly public demonstrations. Permits for public demonstrations are routinely issued.

c. Freedom of Religion

There is no state religion, and full freedom of religious choice exists. There are no restrictions on maintaining places of worship, religious training or instruction, publication of religious material, or participation in charitable activities. Foreign clergy practice freely. Luxembourg's population is about 95 percent Roman Catholic. The state pays the salaries of Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish clergy. Local governments often provide and maintain religious facilities.

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

There is full freedom of domestic and foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation. Luxembourg asylum policy grants asylum seekers due process and full consideration of their cases.

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

Luxembourg is a fully functional multiparty democracy. There is universal suffrage for all citizens aged 18 and above. Policy is freely debated within the Government and the society. There is no risk in dissent; opposition groups and political parties operate without fear of government repression. National elections are held every 5 years, and local elections every 6 years. Representatives are chosen by secret ballot in direct elections which are based on a proportional system. Multiple candidates run for most positions. The Maastricht Treaty entitles nationals of European Union (EU) states to vote in their country of residence, starting in 1995, regardless of how long they have lived there. Due to Luxembourg's large foreign population, it has received a derogation whereby EU non-citizen residents who have resided in Luxembourg for at least 5 years will be permitted to vote in local and European Parliament elections. Such residents may run for election after residing in Luxembourg for at least 10 years.

Foreigners who have fulfilled certain age and residency requirements (usually 18 years of age and 10 years of residence, 5 of them continuously) may apply for Luxembourg citizenship. Women participate freely in the political process. There are seven women in the Chamber of Deputies, including the President of the Chamber. Other women in senior leadership positions include the Minister of Agriculture, the Secretary of State for Public Health and Youth, three members of the European Parliament, and the mayors of several major municipalities, including Luxembourg City.

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

The Government does not restrict the activities of local or international human rights groups.

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

Racial, social, or sexual discrimination is prohibited by law. In practice, blatant discrimination rarely occurs, and relations among native Luxembourgers, immigrants, and other foreigners are generally good.


Women and men enjoy the same property rights. In the absence of a prenuptial agreement, property is equally divided upon dissolution of a marriage.

Equal pay for equal work is mandated by law. No job discrimination suits have been brought to date. In addition to prominent women politicians and civil servants, there are noted women doctors, lawyers, and journalists. A recent European Union study on women's presence in the Luxembourg labor market noted that only 52 percent of Luxembourg women between the ages of 25 and 49 work, which may be attributed in part to Luxembourg's singular prosperity. The study also pointed out that, while progress is being made, women's salaries in Luxembourg are only 55 percent of men's earnings and that women are concentrated in lower level clerical, janitorial, and sales jobs but that progress is being made in the banking sector.

Violence against women is not widespread and is not tolerated by society or the Government. Several women's rights groups, including some that aid battered women, are active. Prosecution of battery charges does take place, but cases are rare.


The Government is strongly committed to the protection of children's rights and welfare. Luxembourg pays family allocation allowances (calculated on a sliding scale according to family income and size), birth premiums, and educational allowances. School is compulsory, beginning at age 4. Among other activities, the Ministry of Youth coordinates youth centers, educational and cultural exchanges, and courses.

Child abuse is not considered to be a widespread problem. The Luxembourg Association for the Prevention of Child Abuse believes there may be about 200 cases a year. Victims of or witnesses to child abuse may call for help on a hotline.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Government estimates in 1993 indicate that Luxembourg's foreign population is over 30 percent of the total, primarily long-term permanent residents. Approximately 85 percent of the foreign population comes from European Community member states. Luxembourg recognizes a need for foreign workers, and foreigners generally are assimilated into the overall society and economy without difficulty. "Skinheads" and neo-Nazis are few, and antiforeigner incidents are infrequent (estimated at less than 10 in 1993) and confined largely to harassment. Police respond whether or not the motivation is antiforeigner. The Government has tried to promote increased tolerance through education and subsidizes French, German, and Luxembourg courses to help integrate foreigners into the society.

Approximately 2,200 refugees from the former Yugoslavia resided in Luxembourg under temporary special protected status in 1993. Government and private entities continued to support their basic needs. Some 300-400 of these refugees were working. Although precise figures are difficult to determine, the Government has estimated that 220-250 refugees from the conflict in the former Yugoslavia resided in Luxembourg without the benefit of legal protection.

People with Disabilities

Luxembourg's national programs for the disabled are coordinated by the Ministry of the Family. Job placement and professional education assistance is provided by the Government. Disabled workers apply for positions through the Employment Administration. Businesses and enterprises with at least 25 employees must hire qualified disabled workers if they apply and must pay them prevailing wages. Employers who do not adhere to these quotas, which are determined by the size of the employer's work force, are subject to monthly fines equivalent to half of a disabled worker's monthly salary. There is no record of complaints of noncompliance.

National legislation does not directly mandate accessibility for the disabled, but builders receive subsidies to construct "disabled friendly" structures. The Ministry aims to expand access to public buildings, priority parking, housing, and schools.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

All workers have the right to associate freely, choose their own representatives, publicize their views, and determine their agenda. Approximately 65 percent of the labor force is unionized. Membership is not mandatory. Unions operate free of governmental interference. The two largest labor federations are linked to, but organized independently of, the Christian Social and the Socialist Parties. There are also several independent unions. Laws prohibiting discrimination against strikes and strike leaders are enforced by a labor tribunal.

Except for government workers providing essential services, all workers have the right to strike. Essential workers include police, army personnel, and medical workers in duty hospitals and clinics. Those government workers who may strike must observe certain conditions, such as preliminary cooling-off periods. Workers rarely strike in Luxembourg; no strikes occurred in 1993.

Unions maintain unrestricted contact with international bodies, including the European Trade Union Confederation and the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions.

b. The Right To Organize and Bargain Collectively

Collective bargaining is protected by law and freely practiced throughout Luxembourg. Wages, benefits, and working conditions are set in negotiations between unions and employers. Businesses having 15 or more employees must have worker representatives. Businesses with over 150 employees must form joint works councils composed of equal numbers of management and employee representatives. In businesses with more than 1,000 employees, one-third of the membership of the supervisory boards of directors must be employees' representatives.

Both Luxembourg law and practice promote union activity and protect union leaders and members from discrimination. Effective procedures exist and are used to adjudicate employment-related complaints. Labor tribunals are authorized to adjudicate employment-related complaints. A request for a hearing before the court must be made in writing. Parties to the dispute are summoned before the tribunal to give testimony. The tribunal's decision may be appealed by either party. The tribunal does not have the authority to require that employers found guilty of antiunion discrimination reinstate workers fired for union activities, but it can impose fines on such employers.

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.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Employment of children under the age of 15 is prohibited. Children are required by law to remain in school until they are 16 years old. Apprentices between 15 and 16 years of age must also attend school. Adolescent workers receive additional legal protection, including limits on overtime and the number of hours that can be worked continuously. The Ministries of Labor and of Education oversee strict enforcement of national child labor and education laws.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The minimum wage legislation effective as of May 1993 provides for a minimum wage for workers at least 18 years of age with no dependents. The minimum wage for a single adult worker throughout Luxembourg is approximately $6.50 per hour (232.99 Luxembourg francs). Lower, tiered minimum wage rates apply to younger workers and students between 15 and 18 years of age and increase yearly by age. Minimum wage rates apply to all sectors of the economy without exception. All wages and salaries are indexed to the general cost-of-living index.

Supplements to the minimum wage are added for workers with dependents. Nonetheless, supporting a family in Luxembourg is difficult on the minimum wage. In practice, most employees receive more than the minimum wage.

National legislation mandates a workweek of 40 hours. Premium pay is required for overtime or unusual hours. Employment on Sunday is prohibited except in continuous-process industries (steel, glass, and chemicals) and for certain maintenance and security personnel. All workers receive a minimum of 5 weeks of paid vacation yearly, in addition to paid holidays.

Luxembourg enjoys very high health and safety standards. A safe working environment is mandated by law and strictly enforced through an inspection system that provides severe penalties for infractions. Inspections are carried out by the Labor Inspectorate of the Ministry of Labor and by the Accident Insurance Agency of the Social Security Ministry.

No laws or regulations specifically guarantee workers the right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardy to continued employment. If workers believe that the workplace is unsafe, they have the right to ask the Labor Inspectorate to make a determination. Determinations of workplace safety are usually made expeditiously.

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