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Universal Periodic Review – MEDIA BRIEF

Monday, 9 November 2015 (Morning)

(Disclaimer: The following brief is not an official record, provides a brief factual summary of the UPR Working Group meeting with the State under review, and does not cover all points addressed)

State under review

Austria
Represented by 28-member delegation headed by Wolfgang Brandstetter, Minister of Justice of Austria

Documents

To access national report, compilation of UN information, and summary of stakeholders’ information, visit the Austria page on UPR website

Troika *

Albania, Cuba, Republic of Korea

Opening statement by State under review

Few points raised in the opening statement of State under review:
(See full statement on the Austria page on UPR Extranet **)

  • Austria has acceded to all major international human rights treaties extended a standing invitation to Special Procedures and regularly presented its reports to various treaty bodies;
  • One of the greatest challenges for the Austrian government and for Austria’s society as a whole was the current influx and transit of refugees from Syria but also from other crisis regions; Up to ten thousand people have been arriving at Austrian borders daily for the few past months;
  • Until  the end of this year, some half a million refugees are  expected to transit through  Austria out of which it is expected that some 85,000 would apply  for asylum in Austria; this poses a serious and unprecedented challenge for the Government; 
  • A good part of the refugees belonged to vulnerable groups, including unaccompanied minors who constituted about 10% of all asylum applications.  At present, basic supply was provided for more than 4,200 unaccompanied minors;
  • Austria was constantly taking measures, at several levels, to combat racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.  The National Action Plan for Integration, adopted in 2010, was an important instrument for addressing anti-discrimination issues and eliminates prejudices;
  • The Austrian Criminal Code contained a provision for hate speech and decreed a series of punishable offences from such acts, and hate crimes were also punishable under Austrian law;
  • The major objective of the Government Bill concerning the proposed amendment of the Juvenile Court Act 2015, to enter into force on 01 January 2016, was for young persons only be detained in cases which were truly unavoidable and as long as absolutely necessary;
  • The number of persons detained in involuntary forensic placement has increased considerably in recent years; a working group set up by the Minister of Justice in 2014 has evaluated the matter and made some 100 reform proposals constituting the greatest reform on the issue in 40 years;     
  • In 2012 the mandate of the Austrian Ombudsman Board was widely extended, in particular for its function as the National Preventive Mechanism as prescribed by the OP-CAT;
  • If claims of abuse by law enforcement were made, the involved authorities must report it to the public prosecutor’s office within 24 hours.  A special focus has also been given to comprehensive human rights training and awareness-raising measures for law-enforcement officials; 
  • In 2010, Austria created a special regime of registered partnership for same sex couples, although there were existing differences with opposite-sex partnerships which were currently being analysed in view of eliminating them;
  • To ensure effective gender equality, the Government implemented gender mainstreaming and gender budgeting in the federal administration.  Despite existing legislation and continuous efforts the Government has still not been able to close the income gap between men and women.   

Participants

In total 98 States participated in the dialogue:  33 HRC members and 65 observers  (Statements available on the Austria page on UPR Extranet)

Positive achievements

Positive achievements noted by delegations included, among others:

  • The accession to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture;
  • The accession to the Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance;
  • The appointment of the Austrian Ombudsman as a national human rights institution;
  • The criminalization of acts of hate speech in the Criminal Code;
  • Measures taken for the prevention of gender-based violence, especially the ratification of the Council of Europe Convention Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence;
  • The important efforts made in handling challenges linked to the unprecedented increase in migration and refugees;

Issues and Questions

Issues and questions raised by the Working Group included, among others:

  • The numerous reports of incidents of discrimination, xenophobia and racist attitudes;
  • Discrimination against women and gender stereotypes in the labour market;
  • Discrimination of women and minorities;
  • The current migration situation;
  • The asylum procedures;
  • Discrimination against LGBT persons;

Recommendations

States participating in the dialogue posed a series of recommendations to Austria.  These pertained to the following issues, among others

  • To continue to treat all migrants humanely and provide protection as appropriate with Austria’s international obligations and to ensure that camps and centers for migrants and refugees have sufficient shelter and health facilities to handle the current increase in numbers;
  • To continue to promote tolerance towards persons of different ethnic origins, to combat racial hatred and to strengthen measures to tackle xenophobia, racism and intolerance;
  • To ensure equal protection against all forms of discrimination, including religion and belief, age and gender identity, by revising and harmonizing anti-discrimination laws;
  • To step up efforts in closing the gender pay gap;
  • To ensure transparent and effective investigation and prosecution of alleged human rights violations by law enforcement officials and to establish an independent mechanism to investigate allegations of excessive use of force and ill-treatment by law enforcement officials;
  • To expedite the establishment of the National Action Plan on Human rights;
  • To take measures to increase development assistance to achieve the internationally agreed target of 0.7 per cent of its GDP;
  • To continue efforts in ensuring gender equality in all spheres of the society;
  • To take further measures aimed at the protection of women and children’s rights;
  • To facilitate family reunifications and abolish quota requirements;
  • To allow same-sex couples the right to marriage;
  • Ratification of human rights instruments: the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education; and the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers.

Adoption of report of Working Group

The adoption of the report –recommendation section -  of the UPR Working Group on Austria is scheduled to take place on Thursday, 12 November 2015

*The troikas are a group of three States selected through a drawing of lots who serve as rapporteurs and who are charged with preparing the report of the Working Group on the country review with the involvement of the State under review and assistance from the OHCHR.

** For access to the UPR Extranet, please fill out the following form to receive a username and password

Media contacts:
Rolando Gómez, Public Information Officer, OHCHR, + 41(0)22 917 9711,
rgomez@ohchr.org
Cédric Sapey, Public Information Officer, OHCHR, + 41(0)22 917 9695, csapey@ohchr.org

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