Austria - Amnesty International Report 2010

Human Rights in REPUBLIC OF AUSTRIA

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Head of state
Heinz Fischer
Head of government
Werner Faymann
Death penalty
abolitionist for all crimes
Population
8.4 million
Life expectancy
79.9 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f)
6/5 per 1,000

Allegations of ill-treatment and racism by law-enforcement officials continued. The rights of asylum-seekers and migrants were violated and undermined by the authorities.

Racism

Non-white Austrians were more likely to be suspected of crime and ill-treated by police. Complaints of police ill-treatment from members of ethnic minorities were often followed by an inadequate response by both the police force and the judicial system; complaints were not properly investigated, and police officers were seldom prosecuted and lightly sanctioned.

  • Between April and mid-2009 the Viennese police conducted a large-scale operation based on ethnic profiling. In April, in response to a rise in burglaries, law enforcement officials were instructed to carry out searches in the houses of all known people of Georgian and Moldovan origin, without concrete grounds of suspicion, in order to question the residents and to establish whether they possessed stolen goods or burglary tools.

Torture and other ill-treatment

The authorities failed to implement safeguards against torture and other ill-treatment.

  • Torture victim Bakary J., a Gambian citizen, had still not received compensation or any form of rehabilitation. He had been tortured by three police officers in Vienna in 2006 and was still at risk of deportation for residing illegally in the country. On 20 November, the Disciplinary Appeal Commission decided to dismiss from office two police officers involved in the case. A third officer, now retired, lost all pension benefits relating to his public employment.

Police and security forces

Reports of human rights violations and excessive use of force by law enforcement officers continued to be made. The authorities failed to investigate and adequately sentence such cases in line with international standards, leading to a high degree of impunity.

  • 14-year-old Florian P. died and a 17-year-old was seriously wounded after a burglary in Krems in August, allegedly from shots fired by two police officers. A prompt and impartial investigation failed to take place. The police officers involved were interrogated only days later by colleagues, not by the Public Prosecutor’s office, as provided by law. In September, an expert appointed by the Public Prosecutor found that the account of the incident given by one police officer was grossly incorrect, which led to delays in the investigation. Despite his injuries, the 17-year-old suspect was immediately interrogated in hospital and was denied his right for a “trusted third party” to be present. At the end of the year the investigation was still ongoing.
  • On 13 January 2009, 27-year-old Chechen refugee Umar Israilov was killed, reportedly by Chechen assailants in Vienna. Umar Israilov had stated publicly that he had been tortured by President Kadyrov and his security forces in Chechnya and had filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights in 2006 on the grounds of torture. Umar Israilov’s lawyer explained the case in detail to the police, and repeatedly asked them to protect him, but the authorities failed to implement an adequate response.

Migrants’ and asylum-seekers’ rights

On 21 October, the parliament adopted new legislation amending the 2005 law on aliens. The new provisions, due to come into force on 1 January 2010, considerably increased the number of cases where asylum-seekers had to be detained, in contravention of international human rights standards. The Interior Ministry terminated the contracts of almost all independent NGOs providing legal advice to asylum-seekers, thus limiting their ability to obtain asylum or international protection and to challenge the reasons for their detention and deportation.

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