Austria
Head of state
Heinz Fischer
Head of government
Werner Faymann
Death penalty
abolitionist for all crimes
Population
8.4 million
Life expectancy
80.9 years
Under-5-mortality
4.1 per 1,000

Austria failed to introduce the crime of torture into domestic legislation. Children were at higher risk of detention pending deportation.

International scrutiny

In January, Austria’s human rights record was assessed under the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The government accepted 131 of the 161 recommendations received and committed to implement them in consultation with civil society.

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Legal, constitutional and institutional developments

In November, following consultations with civil society, Austria adopted a law establishing a National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) within the Ombudsman’s Board, as required under the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture. There were concerns among civil society organizations about the full independence of the NPM.

Amendments to the Security Police Law allowing police surveillance of individuals without judicial control were pending adoption at the end of the year.

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Torture and other ill-treatment

Austria failed to introduce the crime of torture into its criminal code despite repeated recommendations by the UN Committee against Torture.

  • Gambian citizen Bakary J., who was tortured by four police officers in 2006 following an unsuccessful deportation, had still not received reparation and was at risk of deportation. His complaint before the European Court of Human Rights was still pending.
  • In January, the police officer who in February 2009 injured US citizen Mike B., an African-American teacher, during a plain-clothes police operation in Vienna, was sentenced to a fine for grievous bodily harm by the Vienna Regional Criminal Court. In September, the fine was reduced by the Austrian Supreme Court.
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Police and security forces

In June, the Vienna Regional Criminal Court sentenced three individuals respectively to life, 19 and 16 years’ imprisonment for the killing of Chechen refugee Umar Israilov on 13 January 2009. In March, the Independent Administrative Tribunal in Vienna rejected a complaint alleging that the police had failed to provide the victim with protection. Complaints against this decision were pending before the Constitutional Court and the Administrative Court.

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Racism

Reports of racially motivated police misconduct towards foreign nationals and ethnic minorities continued. Structural shortcomings within the criminal justice system when responding to discrimination, including the lack of a comprehensive data collection system that would make it possible to record and evaluate these incidents, were not addressed.

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Migrants’ and asylum-seekers’ rights

Although the government did not officially suspend transfers of asylum-seekers to Greece under the Dublin II Regulation, no such transfers took place following the verdict of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of M.S.S. v. Belgium and Greece (see Belgium and Greece entries).

In July, an amendment to the Austrian Aliens Law came into force that placed foreign children aged 16 to 18 at higher risk of detention pending deportation.

  • Following the death in July 2010 of Reza H. while in police detention in Vienna, the Ministry of Interior carried out an internal evaluation. Reza H., an Afghan asylum-seeker who had alleged that he was 16 years old, died from injuries sustained following a suicide attempt some months earlier. The Ministry subsequently adopted measures to improve the information exchange between asylum and foreign police authorities. Inquiries by the Ombudsman’s Board were still pending at the end of the year.
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