Austria - Amnesty International Report 2007

Human Rights in REPUBLIC OF AUSTRIA

Amnesty International  Report 2013


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Head of state: Heinz Fischer
Head of government: Wolfgang Schüssel
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes.
International Criminal Court: ratified

Police officers were found guilty of crimes that effectively amount to torture. Austria does not specify the crime of torture. New legal provisions allowing forced feeding of certain groups of people came into force.

Torture and ill-treatment

In August, four police officers were found guilty of beating and threatening Bakary J, a Gambian national, with a mock execution. In April, police officers drove Bakary J, whose deportation had been stopped, to an empty warehouse in Vienna where he was handcuffed, kicked, beaten and threatened with a mock execution. The officers later took him to a hospital and told staff that he had been injured while attempting to escape, and he was eventually returned to a detention centre. Neither the police officers nor medical staff at the hospital reported the events, and criminal investigations were not initiated until Bakary J's wife made a complaint. According to medical documentation, Bakary J's skull was fractured in several places and he had several bruises.

At the end of August the Higher Criminal Court in Vienna ruled that the police officers had inflicted or abetted Bakary J's injuries. They were given suspended sentences of eight and six months' imprisonment for tormenting Bakary J and for neglect, respectively. The judge defined the incident as a "lapse", and as a mitigating factor referred to the stressful conditions under which deportation occurs. In December the disciplinary commission of the Vienna Police sentenced the officers to fines of between one and five months' salary.

Aliens Police Act

At the end of August, Geoffrey A, a Nigerian national, went on hunger strike while in detention awaiting deportation. Under provisions in the Aliens Police Act, which came into force in January, he was transferred to prison, where he was not given any medical attention. He was released after 41 days on hunger strike in a very weakened state. No one was notified of his release, and on his way home he collapsed and was taken to an intensive care unit of a Vienna hospital.

Geoffrey A was detained under provisions of the Aliens Police Act. Inherent inconsistencies in the law mean that, rather then being released on grounds of ill-health - as was formerly the practice - people awaiting deportation who are on hunger strike can continue to be kept in detention in order to be force-fed, while, in recognition of medical ethics, doctors are not legally obliged to force-feed the detainee. The result in practice is that hunger strikers can be detained until they die or, as in the case of Geoffrey A, after suffering serious damage to their health, they are released without effective medical supervision.