U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2000 - Andorra
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||26 February 2001|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2000 - Andorra , 26 February 2001, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa988.html [accessed 27 April 2015]|
|Comments||This report is submitted to the Congress by the Department of State in compliance with sections 116(d) and 502(b) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (FAA), as amended, and section 504 of the Trade Act of 1974, as amended. The law provides that the Secretary of State shall transmit to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate, by February 25 "a full and complete report regarding the status of internationally recognized human rights, within the meaning of subsection (A) in countries that receive assistance under this part, and (B) in all other foreign countries which are members of the United Nations and which are not otherwise the subject of a human rights report under this Act." We have also included reports on several countries that do not fall into the categories established by these statutes and that thus are not covered by the congressional requirement.|
The Principality of Andorra is a constitutional parliamentary democracy. Two Princes with joint authority, representing secular and religious authorities, have headed the Principality since 1278. Under the 1993 Constitution, the two Princes – the President of France and the Catholic Bishop of Seu d'Urgell, Spain – serve equally as heads of state, and are represented each in Andorra by a delegate. Elections were held in 1997 to choose members of the "Consell General" (the Parliament), which selects the head of government. The judiciary functions independently.
Andorra has no defense force and depends on neighboring Spain and France for external defense. The national police, under effective civilian control, have sole responsibility for internal security.
The market-based economy is influenced significantly by those of its neighbors France and Spain. After some years of a serious recession, the economy is undergoing a period of economic expansion. Commerce and tourism are the main sources of income. Because of banking secrecy laws, the financial services sector is growing in importance.
The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens, and the law and the judiciary provide effective means of dealing with individual instances of abuse.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
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.
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 these prohibitions.
In June an attorney filed a complaint against the director of the police, 2 police commissioners and 11 members of the police force, alleging he was arrested illegally. This case was still pending at year's end.
In spite of the request of the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture, the Government has declined thus far to modify the law to provide arrested individuals access to an attorney from the moment of arrest. Legislation now provides legal assistance only 24 hours after the time of arrest.
In May the country became part of a network of 47 states with prisoner transfer arrangements permitting qualifying prisoners to serve their sentences in their own country.
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 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 provided 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. Violations are subject to effective legal sanction. The law also protects private communications.
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 various parties; some of them have dissolved.
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 direct subsidies from the Government, although some payment is provided to the church for maintenance of birth and death records. Catholic religious instruction is available to students in public schools on an optional basis, outside of both regular school hours and during the time frame set aside for elective school activities, such as civics or ethics. The Catholic Church provides teachers for these classes, and the Government pays their salaries. The Government professes willingness to provide instruction in other religions on the same basis, if parents so request; however, at years end no parent's requested instruction in any religions other than the Catholic religion.
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. The issue of first asylum did not arise during the year.
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 are underrepresented in government and politics. Although progress has been made and there are no formal barriers, few women have run for office. One out of 28 Members of Parliament is a woman, and 1 woman holds a cabinet level position.
4. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
The Government accepts international and nongovernmental investigations of allegations of human rights abuses. Approximately 10 human rights associations exist in the country, the most active being the Association of Immigrants in Andorra (AIA) and the Association of Andorran Women (AAW). The first defends the rights of foreign residents. The second actively supports women's rights. The latter collaborates with the Department of Public Health and Social Welfare to help battered women, single parent families, and others in need. In spite of demands from the two organizations, the Government has declined to create a department specifically for women's issues.
In one case, a citizen filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights when the judge in his case disallowed his appeal to the Constitutional Court. The appeal contended that his trial was not sufficiently impartial. However, the court, after studying the case, did not accept the complaint and stated that no violation of human rights had occurred.
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.
There is no specific legislation regarding violence against women. Article 8.2 of the Constitution is applied in such cases. The AIA and the AAW received more than 60 complaints of physical and psychological violence against women, as compared with 4 in 1999. The associates maintained that the number is increasing. They also asserted that such domestic violence existed at all levels of society. Women suffering from domestic violence requested help from Women's Associations, but very rarely filed a complaint with the police. No complaints are known to have been filed with the police by year's end.
In theory there is no legal discrimination against women, privately or professionally; however, the AAW reported that in practice, there have been many cases of women dismissed from employment due to pregnancy. Discriminatory wage differentials were reportedly common, with some women's wages an average of 32 percent lower than their male counterparts' earnings. The Association actively promoted women's issues through information exchanges and limited direct support to those in need.
The Government's commitment to children's welfare is demonstrated by its systems of health care and education. Free public education begins at age 4 and is compulsory until age 16. The Government provides free nursery schools, although the existing number falls short of the need.
On September 7, the Government signed an optional protocol of the Convention of the Rights of Children related to selling of children, child prostitution, and child pornography.
There is no societal pattern of abuse of children.
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.
Spanish nationals are the largest group of foreign residents, accounting for approximately 43 percent of the population. Other sizable foreign groups are Portuguese, French, and British. A small but fast growing group of immigrants, especially from North Africa, work mostly in agriculture and construction.
Although the Constitution states that foreign legal residents enjoy the same rights and freedoms as citizens, some immigrant workers believed that they did not have the same rights and security. Recent legislation has improved the quality of life for immigrant workers. Nevertheless, many immigrant workers hold only "temporary work authorizations." These permits are valid only as long as the job exists for which the permit was obtained. When job contracts expire, temporary workers must leave the country. The Government prohibits the issuance of work permits, unless workers can demonstrate that they have a fixed address with minimally satisfactory living conditions.
More than 4,000 immigrants do not have work permits or residence permits because the quota for immigration is not as high as the number of workers needed and employed in the country.
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. In accordance with constitutional provisions, a registry of associations was established in 1996 and is being maintained. 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
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, such as the vital services of doctors, nurses, and police. Antiunion discrimination is not prohibited under the law. Approximately 600 associations exist in the country and have registered within the Government's Register of Association by year's end, this figure includes cultural associations, workers associations, foreign associations, colleges and attorney's, colleges of physicians, and a police trade union. No unions have emerged among workers in the private sector. No figure is available regarding the percentage of unionized labor. A partial reason for this circumstance is that no statue regarding labor relations and unionization has been elaborated. Even the police union functions more as a professional association than as a syndicate.
In November the Government signed the European Social Charter.
There are no export processing zones.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The law does not prohibit forced and bonded labor, including that performed by children specifically, but such practices are not known to occur.
d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment
Children under the age of 18 normally are prohibited from working, although in exceptional circumstances children ages 16 and 17 may be allowed to work. The Labor Inspection Office in the Ministry of Social Welfare, Public Health, and Labor enforces child labor regulations. The law does not prohibit forced and bonded labor by children specifically; however, such practices are not known to occur (see Section 6.c.).
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The workweek is limited to 40 hours, although employers may require overtime from workers. The legal maximums for overtime hours are 66 hours per month and 426 hours per year. An official minimum wage is set by government regulations. Other, higher wages are established by contract. The minimum wage is approximately $3.45 (674 pesetas) per hour and approximately $599 (116,827 pesetas) per month. The minimum wage barely provides a decent standard of living for a worker and family. The Labor Inspection Office enforces minimum wage observance. Workers can be dismissed with 15 days' to 6 months' notice, depending on how long they have been working for the company. A minimal indemnification of 1 month's salary per year worked is paid if a worker is fired without justification.
A dismissed worker receives unemployment and health benefits for only 25 days. A board composed of Andorran nationals, although they represent only a small portion of the work force, controls retirement benefits. The Labor Inspection Service hears labor complaints.
The Labor Inspection Service sets occupational health and safety standards and takes the necessary steps to see that they are enforced. During the past year, the Labor Inspection Service filed 145 complaints against companies for violating labor regulations, and it has the authority to levy sanctions and fines against such companies. The law authorizes employees to refuse certain tasks if their employers do not provide the customary level of protection. No legislation grants workers the right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardy to their continued employment.
f. Trafficking in Persons
The law does not prohibit trafficking in persons; however, there were no reports that persons were trafficked in, to, from, or within the country. Nor is the country a transit point for traffic in persons. However, the law does provide punishment for traffickers of illegal workers.