U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1995 - Liechtenstein

LIECHTENSTEIN   The Principality of Liechtenstein is a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy. The reigning Prince is the Head of State; all legislation enacted by the popularly elected Parliament (Landtag) must have his concurrence. The Landtag elects and the Prince appoints the members of the Government and of the functionally independent judiciary. 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 violating an official duty, the Prince can take such action only if the Landtag requests it. The Interior Ministry effectively oversees the regular and auxiliary police forces. There is no standing military force. Despite its small size and limited natural resources, Liechtenstein has developed during recent decades from an agrarian society into 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. As a result of complex negotiations held with member states of the European Economic Area and Switzerland, and a national referendum held in April, Liechtenstein is simultaneously a member of the European Economic Area. Citizens enjoy a very high standard of living. Unemployment was only 0.9 percent in 1995. The Government fully respects the human rights of its citizens provided for in the Constitution, and the law and judiciary provide effective means of dealing with instances of individual abuse. Domestic violence against women is not a problem; existing societal discrimination against women is being eliminated in accordance with government policy.

Respect for Human Rights

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 disappearances.

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

The law prohibits torture and 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 the suspect before an examining magistrate, who must either press formal charges or order release. The law grants suspects the right to legal counsel of their own choosing, at no cost if the suspect is indigent. Release on personal recognizance or bail is granted unless the examining magistrate has reason to believe the person is 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 judiciary is independent of the executive and legislative branches. It has three tiers: lower court, high court, and Supreme Court. In addition, an Administrative Court hears appeals against government decisions. Also, a 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. There were no reports of political prisoners.

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

The Constitution provides for personal liberty, and for inviolability of the home, of postal correspondence, and of 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 the press. Two daily newspapers are published, each representing the interests of one of the two major political parties, and one weekly news magazine. There is a state-owned television station and a private radio station, but residents freely receive radio and television broadcasts from abroad. 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 finances of the Roman Catholic Church are integrated directly into the budgets of the national and local governments. Churches also receive financial contributions from their members on a voluntary basis. Roman Catholic or Protestant religious education is compulsory in all schools, but the authorities routinely grant exemptions for children whose parents so request.

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

Citizens have unrestricted freedom to travel in or outside the country, to emigrate, and to return. The country's lack of an airport or international train station precludes it from being a country of first asylum. An asylum law is in preparation; Parliament decides case by case on each application. In late 1994, it granted preliminary work permits, valid through 1996, to a group of 18 Tibetans who arrived in October 1993. Their status remains subject to further determination. In addition, 295 refugees from the former Yugoslavia (corresponding to 1 percent of the population) received permission to stay until April 1996, also subject to annual extensions. An additional 40 Yugoslav refugees and 2 Algerians whose status was not yet formalized by year's end were also admitted. Those entering to cross the Austrian frontier without permission are sent to Austrian authorities in accordance with a bilateral agreement. Those entering from a third country through Switzerland are dealt with on a case by case basis. A solution is sought which would avoid forcing people to return to a country where they would be subject to persecution on political, religious, or racial grounds.

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

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. A two-party coalition has formed the Government since 1938. Other parties operate freely; one currently has a seat in Parliament. The Government regularly puts initiatives and referendums to popular vote. Since women gained the right to vote in 1984, a growing number have been active in politics. Two women are Members of Parliament, and two--one the Foreign Minister--are among the five members of the Cabinet. Women serve on the executive committees in the major parties.

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

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. There have been no requests from any source for investigation of human rights violations.

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

The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, language, or social status, and the authorities respect these provisions.


The 1994 report provided an inaccurate description of the level of domestic violence against women. Domestic violence is not a societal problem. The total number of victims of domestic violence in 1994 was 21 rather than 670. (The latter figure actually represented the total number of nights spent in Liechtenstein's shelter, not the number of victims.) Of the 21 women involved, 18 were from adjoining areas of neighboring countries. In 1995, 30 women sought shelter and were given assistance due to violence or threats from a spouse or male partner. Of the 30 victims, 21 were from adjoining areas of neighboring countries, 6 were foreign nationals residing in Liechtenstein, and 3 were Liechtenstein nationals. The law prohibits wife beating, and the Government prosecutes abusers. Societal discrimination still limits opportunities for women in fields traditionally dominated by men. However, a 1992 constitutional amendment provided for equality for women under the law and requires the Parliament to revise, by the end of 1996, all laws relevant to this provision. Accordingly, Parliamentary committees have been working on revision of the statutes concerning citizenship, education, employment conditions, taxation, and other matters. Liechtenstein ratified the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women in 1995.


The Government supports programs to protect the rights of children and matches contributions made to the four nongovernmental organizations monitoring children's rights. There is no pattern of societal abuse against children. Liechtenstein ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child and deposited the instruments of ratification in December.

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. The Government has required that buildings or government services be made accessible for people with disabilities.

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. The sole trade union represents 13 percent of the work force, but it 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 are known to have taken place in the last 26 years. The law does not provide specific protection for strikers. Employers may dismiss employees for refusal to work; such dismissals may be contested.

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.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The law generally prohibits employment of children under age 16; however, exceptions may be made, under certain circumstances, for some employment of youths older than age 13 and for those leaving school after age 14.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

There is no national minimum wage, but even the lowest actual wages afford a decent living for workers and their families. The law sets the maximum workweek at 45 hours for white-collar workers and employees of industrial firms and sales personnel, and 50 hours for all other workers. The actual workweek is usually 40 to 43 hours. 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.

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