Austria
Head of state
Heinz Fischer
Head of government
Werner Faymann

The Criminal Code was amended to introduce the crime of torture. Concerns about racism in the criminal justice system remained. Legal safeguards for asylum-seekers were reduced.

International justice

Criminal investigations against the former Guatemalan deputy-head of police, Javier Figueroa, suspected of involvement in extrajudicial executions in Guatemala, were pending. The Austrian authorities had arrested Javier Figueroa in May 2011, after they turned down an extradition request to Guatemala.

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Torture and other ill-treatment

At the end of the year the Criminal Code was amended to introduce the crime of torture, to take effect from 1 January 2013.

While welcoming the broadening of the mandate of the Austrian Ombudsman Board to work as a national preventive mechanism under the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture in August, the CERD Committee remained concerned about the independence of the Board members and recommended that their appointment fully comply with international standards.

  • In May, an official of the Ministry of the Interior apologized to Gambian citizen Bakary J., who was tortured by four police officers in 2006 following an unsuccessful deportation attempt. His residence ban was lifted. Negotiations about compensation were ongoing.
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Police and security forces

After a six-year trial period, the Ministry of the Interior authorized the regular use of electro-stun devices in police operations. The Ministry qualified the devices as in principle non-lethal. However, there were reports of human rights abuses carried out with electro-stun devices in several countries and the incidence of several hundred deaths following the use of such devices, which led to calls for electro-stun devices to be strictly limited to situations where they are necessary to avoid recourse to police firearms.

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Racism

Reports of racially motivated police misconduct against foreign nationals and ethnic minorities continued.

In August, the CERD Committee criticized Austria’s failure to provide statistical data on the ethnic composition of its population and expressed concern about reports of racial profiling and stop-and-search practices on people from ethnic minorities. It also criticized the failure to adequately prosecute and punish law enforcement officials for offences against people with migration backgrounds; to ensure equal protection under the law; and to prosecute all violations of the prohibition of racial discrimination.

Austria maintained its refusal to adopt a National Action Plan against Racism as required by the 2001 Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.

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Migrants’ and asylum-seekers’ rights

In August, Austria adopted amendments to the Asylum and Aliens Laws, which reduced legal safeguards for people in need of international protection. The right of asylum-seekers and migrants to free legal counsel was restricted and, in some proceedings, denied.

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