Head of state: Heinz Fischer
Head of government: Werner Faymann (replaced Alfred Gusenbauer in December)
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
Population: 8.4 million
Life expectancy: 79.4 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 6/5 per 1,000
No progress was made on implementing safeguards against torture and other ill-treatment, as requested by regional and international human rights bodies. The authorities failed to protect the rights of asylum-seekers and migrants.
Torture and other ill-treatment
Torture victim Bakary J. had still not received compensation or any form of rehabilitation by the end of the year. He had been beaten and subjected to a mock execution after an aborted deportation on 7 April 2006. In September 2007 the appellate disciplinary authority had reduced the fines originally imposed on the four officers tried for the offences, and they remained on duty. On 18 September 2008, the Administrative Court declared that the decision of the appellate disciplinary authority was unlawful as it did not give due consideration to the "deliberate" and "brutal nature" of the conduct of the officers involved.
Police and security forces
Although in February the Ministry of Justice suspended the use of conducted energy devices (CEDs) in prisons in response to rising concerns about their use, the same month the Interior Ministry announced that, following a probation period, CEDs would be used by police in routine operations. The decree of the Interior Ministry governing use of CEDs classified them as harmless and non-lethal, and did not address the dangers of their disproportionate use.
Chechen asylum-seeker Ruslan A. was detained on 8 July in the local police station of Böheimkirchen with a view to securing his deportation to Poland, together with his wife and child, because he had applied for asylum in Poland prior to his arrival in Austria. He feared that if deported to Poland he would be at risk from members of Russian intelligence agents active there. He was severely traumatized and threatened to commit suicide unless he could see his psychotherapist. A short time later, masked special police officers shot him with a CED from outside his cell, following which he was taken to hospital. On 28 July, the Asylum Court overruled the decision to deport him and his family to Poland, and ruled that Austria had to consider his asylum request.
Refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants
The authorities continued to exploit loopholes in the law and expelled migrants and asylum-seekers without due consideration of their family ties and private lives.
In October, the Interior Ministry significantly reduced funding for legal advice for asylum-seekers, which is provided only by NGOs.
Lawyers representing 10 animal rights activists reported they had been denied access to the case file necessary to effectively challenge the order to defer their clients' pending trial. The 10 activists had been arrested and detained on 21 May and charged with membership of a criminal organization that aimed to damage property. They remained in detention until 2 September, when they were released to await trial.
Amnesty International visits
Amnesty International delegates visited Austria in March, April and May.
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