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Austria 2023

Social security provisions remained insufficient. Access to safe and affordable abortion was limited. Unaccompanied children seeking international protection remained inadequately protected. Parliament approved the establishment of a police oversight body, amid concerns regarding its independence. Police prevented journalists from observing and reporting protests. Police accountability for unlawful use of force remained inadequate. Climate action was insufficient to meet Austria’s targets.

Right to social security

In June, the government presented measures to alleviate the cost-of-living crisis, including providing increased support to families experiencing poverty and/or beneficiaries of social assistance. However, despite ongoing calls by civil society to adopt a new Basic Act on Social Assistance compliant with human rights law and standards, no structural legislative changes were adopted to sufficiently fulfil the right to an adequate standard of living for beneficiaries.1 In March, the Constitutional Court declared a provision of the Viennese means-tested benefits unconstitutional as it contradicted the current Basic Act on Social Assistance.

Right to housing

Despite calls by NGOs, the government failed to adopt a national housing strategy. Although the city of Vienna expanded the capacity of emergency shelters, availability remained insufficient to meet needs.

Women’s and girls’ rights

By year’s end 26 women had been killed in suspected femicides, amid concerns regarding the lack of sustainable strategies to prevent such violence. Abortion had not been fully decriminalized. Access to affordable and safe abortion was limited due to its exclusion from the healthcare system.

Reforms to the care system presented by the Ministry of Social Affairs in June still failed to grant fair remuneration and social security to live-in care workers, the majority of whom were migrant women.

Freedom of peaceful assembly

At several protests in Vienna, the capital, police prevented journalists from observing and reporting protests.

Decision-makers publicly suggested criminalizing climate activists for their forms of protest and civil disobedience, in particular for blocking streets.

On 11 October, police banned a pro-Palestinian protest in Vienna, citing national security concerns. Despite the ban, the protest took place.

Freedom of expression

In October, a freedom of information law was proposed that fell short of international standards because it exempted most municipalities from an active obligation to publish information of general interest.

There was a worrying increase in the number of attacks on press freedom and strategic litigation against public participation (SLAPP) suits against journalists and human rights activists.2

Refugees’ and migrants’ rights

In the context of ongoing disappearances of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, Austria still failed to adopt federal provisions ensuring guardianship for such minors on their arrival, despite an existing legislative proposal by the Ministry of Justice.

In June, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture described conditions for migrants awaiting deportation as appalling, dilapidated and dirty.3


Law enforcement continued to use facial recognition technology without a clear legal basis, despite its potential discriminatory impact.

Austria failed to ensure human-rights compliant anti-discrimination legislation at federal and regional levels.

According to two NGOs, there was a rise in the number of reported antisemitic and anti-Muslim incidents during the year.

Detainees’ rights

In June, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture expressed concern about prison conditions, including mental healthcare provision, the use of solitary confinement and the treatment of juveniles.

Unlawful use of force

Police accountability for unlawful use of force remained inadequate. In March, the police used pepper spray and batons unnecessarily and disproportionately against climate activists at a protest in Vienna. Parliament approved a police oversight body to be established in 2024, although there were concerns over its independence. Police were still not required to wear identification badges, which continued to impede accountability.

Right to a fair trial

Austria’s Federal Administrative Court had no formal leadership throughout the year. Other high functions within the judiciary also remained vacant due to suspected cronyism.

The Minister of Justice remained responsible for instructing prosecutors in ongoing proceedings.

Right to a healthy environment

Austria’s climate action, including the sustainable reduction of carbon emissions, was not on track to reach its targets. The government also failed to adopt a climate action law.

  1. Austria: The Basic Act on Social Assistance in Austria: A Step Back for Human Rights, 17 October (German only)
  2. “Austria: SLAPP lawsuit against SOS Balkanroute dismissed: Success for civil society in Austria”, 19 July (German only)
  3. “Austria: Council of Europe criticizes prison conditions in Austria: Amnesty International calls for reforms”, 27 June (German only)