REPUBLIC OF AUSTRIA
Head of State: Heinz Fischer
Head of government: Alfred Gusenbauer (replaced Wolfgang Schüssel in January)
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
Population: 8.2 million
Life expectancy: 79.4 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 6/5 per 1,000
Asylum-seekers suffered routine detention and migrants were deported without due consideration of their family ties and private life. The system for monitoring places of detention was neither independent nor comprehensive. Those in police custody throughout the country received little redress in cases of death and ill-treatment.
Refugees and asylum-seekers
Legislative changes meant asylum-seekers no longer had access to the Administrative Court, significantly decreasing their human rights protection.
The 2005 Aliens Police Act, which is not in line with international standards, allowed authorities to persist in routinely detaining asylum-seekers following their arrival, without taking into account their age, physical condition or family ties – thus violating their right to a private and family life. In many cases, the detention was protracted, disproportionate and unlawful. The poor conditions of detention also amounted to ill-treatment, and asylum-seekers had no prompt or regular access to legal representation.
Among those detained pending deportation were minors, in contravention of the UN Children's Convention, and people suffering from trauma.
- A disabled Moldovan man, who had fled organized crime in his country of origin, was detained for three months before eventually being granted asylum.
- A Russian citizen was detained for five months pending deportation, despite being very ill. His symptoms included headaches and chest pains.
Police and security forces
In November, the UN Human Rights Committee expressed concern regarding the Austrian authorities handing out lenient sentences in cases of death and ill-treatment in custody. The Committee recommended that such cases be investigated promptly, impartially and independently by a body outside the Ministry of Interior. The Austrian penal code lacks the crime of torture, as codified in the UN Convention against Torture.
- On 11 September 2007, the appellate disciplinary authority confirmed that four police officers convicted of crimes amounting to torture remained on duty, and ordered that their fines of between one and five months' salary be reduced. On 7 April 2006, the officers had driven Gambian citizen Bakary J. to an empty storehouse in Vienna, where they severely ill-treated him, including performing a mock execution. They claimed the ensuing injuries had been inflicted by Bakary J. himself while attempting to escape. At the end of the year, Bakary J. had not been awarded any reparation.
Loopholes remained regarding the control of weapons transactions, and there was no monitoring or verification system of the use of arms post delivery. The Law on War Material still lacked sufficient safeguards and transparency. In particular the criteria for the denial of arms transfers leave a worrying margin of discretion, which can result in exports to perpetrators of persistent grave human rights abuses.
Disclaimer: © Copyright Amnesty International