Last Updated: Friday, 27 May 2016, 08:49 GMT

U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1999 - Liechtenstein

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 25 February 2000
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1999 - Liechtenstein , 25 February 2000, available at: [accessed 28 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 Liechtenstein is a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy. The reigning Prince is the head of state; all legislation enacted by the popularly elected Parliament (Landtag) must have his concurrence. The Parliament elects and the Prince appoints the members of the Government and of the independent judiciary.

The Interior Ministry effectively oversees the regular and auxiliary police forces. There is no standing military force.

Liechtenstein has a prosperous, highly industrialized, free-enterprise economy with a vital service sector. It participates in a customs union with Switzerland and uses the Swiss franc as its national currency. A member of the European Economic Area (EEA), its 32,000 citizens enjoy a very high standard of living. Unemployment was only 1.7 percent during the year.

The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens, and the law and judiciary provide effective means of dealing with individual instances of abuse. The Government is working to eliminate societal discrimination against women.

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 law prohibits torture and other cruel punishment, and there were no reports of the use of such methods.

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

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The law provides for freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention, and the authorities honor these provisions. Within 24 hours of arrest, the police must bring suspects before an examining magistrate, who must either file formal charges or order release. The law grants suspects the right to legal counsel of their own choosing, at no cost if they are indigent. Release on personal recognizance or bail is granted unless the examining magistrate has reason to believe the suspects are a danger to society or will not appear for trial.

There is no provision for exile, and it does not occur.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary. The judicial system has three tiers: Lower court, high court, and Supreme Court. In addition an Administrative Court hears appeals against government decisions. Also, the State Court 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.

The Constitution provides for public trials and judicial appeal, and the authorities respect these provisions.

The Constitution authorizes the Prince to alter criminal sentences or pardon offenders. However, if the offender is a member of the Government and is sentenced for a crime in connection with official duties, the Prince can take such action only if the Parliament requests it.

There were no reports of political prisoners.

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

The Constitution provides for personal liberty and for the inviolability of the home, postal correspondence, and telephone conversations. No violations were reported. Police need a judicial warrant to search private property.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a democratic political system combine to ensure freedom of speech and of the press. Two daily newspapers are published, each representing the interests of one of the two major political parties, as is one weekly newsmagazine. One state and one private television station broadcast, along with a private radio station, and residents freely receive radio and television broadcasts from neighboring countries. An information bulletin is also issued by the third party (Freie Liste) represented in Parliament.

The Government respects academic freedom.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for freedom of assembly and association, and the authorities do not interfere with these rights in practice.

c. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government does not hamper the teaching or practice of any faith. The relationship between the Government and the Catholic Church currently is being redefined, and a new agreement is scheduled for 2002. The Government contributes to the Catholic Church, as well as to other denominations. The finances of the Catholic Church are integrated directly into the budgets of the national and local governments. Catholic or Protestant religious education is compulsory in all schools, but the authorities routinely grant exemptions for children whose parents request them.

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

Citizens have unrestricted freedom to travel in the country, to emigrate, and to return.

The Government cooperates with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees.

The Government provides first asylum, but the country's lack of an airport or international train station means that it receives few requests. However, since passage of an asylum law in 1998, the number of requests increased. Those persons who enter from Austria without permission still are returned to Austrian authorities in accordance with a bilateral agreement.

In view of the situation in Kosovo, in April the Government decided that children under age 20 and spouses of guest workers from Kosovo could enter the country on request. By September the Government granted temporary protective status to 426 Kosovar refugees. In September the Government set May 31, 2000, as the deadline for their repatriation. In coordination with the Swiss Federal Office for Refugee Matters, the Government grants financial and material aid to those who return to Kosovo voluntarily; by September 210 refugees already indicated their willingness to return.

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.

Liechtenstein is a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy. The monarchy is hereditary in the male line. The 25-member unicameral legislature is elected every 4 years. Suffrage is universal for adults over age 20, and balloting is secret. Political parties operate freely. Citizens regularly vote on initiatives and referenda.

Women are underrepresented in politics and government, although since gaining the right to vote in 1984, a growing number have been active in politics. A woman, the Foreign Minister, is one of the five members of the Cabinet, and another is a Member of Parliament. Women serve on the executive committees of the major parties. In June women's organizations, political parties, and the Government's Bureau for the Promotion of Equal Rights for Women and Men held a convention to promote the greater participation by women in politics.

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

International and domestic human rights groups operate without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials are cooperative and responsive to their views.

The sole local human rights organization, Justitia et Pax, is an informal group of about 10 persons who monitor prison conditions and assist foreign workers with immigration matters.

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

The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, sex, language, or social status, and the authorities respect these provisions. The law also prohibits public incitement to violence or public agitation or insult directed against a race, people, ethnic group, or state.


Nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) estimate that one in five women is a victim of physical or psychological violence. There is one shelter, which in 1998 provided refuge for 19 women, only 5 of whom were citizens, and 24 children. Annual government financing for the shelter is about $170,000 (250,000 Swiss francs). The law prohibits all forms of domestic violence, and the Government vigorously enforces the law.

NGO's assume that as in neighboring countries trafficking in women occurs, but no specific cases have been documented (see Section 6.f.).

Societal discrimination still limits opportunities for women in fields traditionally dominated by men. On the aggregate level, men earn more than women. However, it is unclear if this fact represents overt discrimination. In accordance with a 1992 constitutional amendment mandating equality for women, Parliament amended a significant number of laws to provide for equality of treatment. Among other things, Parliament revised the citizenship law, the employment law, the law on labor conditions, the tax law, and the divorce law. The process of amending laws is almost complete. In March Parliament also passed a new law on equal opportunity for women and men. The new law is designed to eliminate discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace and to create conditions that allow both women and men to combine work and family. In April the Government approved an action plan to promote equal opportunity and to create conditions that allow both men and women to combine work and family. Measures include: Raising public awareness about the new law; improving programs and infrastructure for traditional and single-parent families, such as affordable housing and childcare; promoting educational and career opportunities for women; and raising recognition for work in the home to the same level as for work outside the home.

Three women's rights groups are active. Their chief concerns are public affairs, information, legal counseling, lobbying, and other political activities.


The Government demonstrates its strong commitment to children's rights and welfare through its well-funded systems of public education and medical care. The Government provides compulsory, free, and universal primary school education for children of both sexes for 9 years, normally until the age of 16.

The Government supports programs to protect the rights of children and matches contributions made to the four NGO's monitoring children's rights. A children and youth service belonging to the Office for Social Services oversees the implementation of government-supported programs for children.

There is no societal pattern of abuse against children.

People with Disabilities

Although the law does not expressly prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities, complaints of such discrimination may be pursued in the courts. Amendments to the law on insurance for the disabled, which were intended to improve the economic situation of disabled persons, came into force in 1997.

The Government requires that buildings and government services be made accessible for people with disabilities, but in general they are not, particularly old buildings.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

In its 1998 security report, the Government confirmed the existence of a small number of rightwing extremists, consisting of about 20 skinheads between the ages of 20 and 30, and about as many followers of a slightly younger age. A government survey of 700 youths conducted during the year indicated that approximately 20 percent of youths expressed ambivalence toward or sympathy for extremist views, while 4 percent were actual supporters. Incidents of violence increased during the year, according to the survey.

In September the Government presented measures to Parliament designed to curtail racial prejudice and discrimination against foreigners. The proposed law would make it a punishable crime to produce or distribute racist propaganda, deny the Holocaust, engage in racist or religious discrimination, deny services to a particular group, and support racist organizations financially. Violations would be punishable with a maximum 2-year prison sentence; repeat offenders could be sentenced to 3-years' imprisonment.

Section 6. Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

All workers, including foreigners, are free to associate, join unions of their choice, and select their own union representatives. Due to the country's small size and population, only one trade union operates, representing about 13 percent of the work force. However, the sole trade union looks after the interests of nonmembers as well. It is a member of the World Confederation of Labor but is represented on an ad hoc basis by a Swiss union.

Workers have the right to strike except in certain essential services. No strikes were reported during the year. The law does not provide specific protection for strikers. Employers may dismiss employees for refusing to work; such dismissals may be contested. In 1997 the Government incorporated European Economic Area guidelines into its domestic labor law. These guidelines require that, among other things, employers consult in cases of projected mass dismissals and submit employment contracts in written form.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The law provides for the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively. However, collective bargaining agreements are generally adapted from ones negotiated by Swiss employers and unions.

There are no export processing zones.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, and there were no reports of violations. Except by implication, the law does not specifically forbid forced and bonded labor by children, but such practices are not known to occur. NGO's assume that trafficking in women occurs, but there were no reports of specific cases (see Section 6.f.).

d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment

The Government does not specifically prohibit forced and bonded labor by children, but such practices are not known to occur (see Section 6.c.). The law generally prohibits the employment of children under 16 years of age. However, exceptions may be made, for the limited employment of youths at least age 14 and for those who leave school after completing their 9 years of compulsory education. Children ages 14 and older may be employed in light duties for not more than 9 hours a week during the school year and 15 hours a week at other times.

Inspections are adequate. No employers have been fined or imprisoned for violations of the law. The Government devotes adequate resources and oversight to child labor policies. The Department for Worker Safety of the Office of the National Economy effectively supervises compliance with the law.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

There is no national minimum wage. The Government estimates that the number of working poor increased slightly in recent years, from a base of 7.9 percent in 1994. The law sets the maximum workweek at 45 hours for white-collar workers and employees of industrial firms and sales personnel, and 48 hours for all other workers. With few exceptions, Sunday work is not allowed. Workers over age 20 receive at least 4 weeks of vacation; younger ones, at least 5 weeks.

The law sets occupational health and safety standards, and the Department for Worker Safety of the Office of the National Economy effectively enforces these provisions. The law provides for a hearing in cases in which workers remove themselves from dangerous situations.

f. Trafficking in Persons

The law does not prohibit trafficking in persons.

NGO's assume that as in neighboring countries trafficking in women occurs, but no specific cases have been documented.

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