Preventive Human Rights Monitoring
The Austrian Ombudsman Board (AOB) has been responsible for protecting and promoting human rights in the Republic of Austria since 1 July 2012.
The AOB along with one federal and six regional commissions monitor institutions in which there is or can be a deprivation or restriction of personal liberty, such as in prisons or nursing homes. The inspection also extends to institutions and programmes for people with disabilities, and the administration is monitored as an executive authority if direct orders are issued and coercive measures are exercised, as in the case of deportations, demonstrations and police operations. The essential purpose of the above is to recognise and remedy risk factors for human rights infringements at an early stage.
The AOB is essentially the "human rights house of the Republic of Austria".
In addition to preventive monitoring, anybody can expressly lodge a complaint to the AOB if he/she believes that there has been an infringement of human rights.
The legal constitutional mandate for protecting human rights as a “National Prevention Mechanism” (NPM) is based on two significant legal instruments of the United Nations. The first instrument is the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) and the second instrument is the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The AOB presents its current inspection findings - as in the case of individual complaints - in its Reports to Parliament and the provincial parliaments. The Board is also obliged to report to the UN sub-commission each year about its work as a National Prevention Mechanism (NPM) for the prevention of torture.
Monitoring of places where freedom is restricted
People may be deprived of freedom in different locations, for example in prisons, barracks, psychiatric hospitals, old people’s homes and nursing homes, crisis centres, residential groups for children and juveniles supervised by youth and welfare services and facilities for people with disabilities.
A total of around 4,000 public and private institutions in the territory of the Federal Republic of Austria are covered by this, and around 500 verification visits are conducted by the regional expert commissions each year and are mostly unannounced.
Monitoring of institutions and programmes for people with disabilities
The AOB also visits and monitors institutions and programmes for people with disabilities with its commissions. The aim is to prevent any conceivable form of exploitation, violence and abuse. In this way, the Ombudsman board implements regulations of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Austria. The visits cover, for example, facilities such as long-term care institutions for people with disabilities and psychosocial problems, and disability day centres.
Accompanying monitoring of coercive measures
The AOB and its commissions also examine the direct orders issued and coercive measures carried out by the administration. This involves monitoring police operations during large-scale raids, at major events, gatherings and demonstrations as well as during deportations. The objective here is to protect people and their rights. This applies to people taking part in demonstrations as well as police officers.
Our investigative authority also covers allegations of ill-treatment against police forces and deaths and suicide attempts in police custody.
In order to be able to fulfil its tasks as the Republic’s human rights body, the Austrian Ombudsman Board has set up one federal and six regional commissions. The expert commissions have unrestricted access to all institutions and receive all the information and documents required to exercise their mandate.
Human Rights Advisory Council
The Human Rights Advisory Council supports the Austrian Ombudsman Board as an advisory body. It consists of representatives of the Federal Ministries, the province and civil society. It supports the Ombudsman Board in determining the focal points for monitoring procedures, issuing maladministration statements, developing recommendations and ensuring consistent procedures and inspection standards.
The Ombudsman board and the commissions it employs are bound by international guidelines when it comes to completing their tasks relating to the protection and promotion of human rights. The standards developed by the UN Subcommission on Prevention of Torture (SPT) and the European Commission on the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) in particular must be complied with.
It is especially important to exchange experiences at international level in order to be able to carry out these tasks properly. The Ombudsman board is therefore constantly working together with the UN subcommission and the CPT commission, the Council of Europe and international experts.
For more information about the interantional activities of the AOB click here.
SEE NPM Network - Chair 2016
In March 2013 the National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs) of Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia established the so-called South-East Europe (SEE) NPM Network in Belgrade. The network’s purpose is the exchange of experience and the mutual support regarding the implementation of the NPM mandate specified in the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) in the region.
For more details regarding the SEE NPM Network Chair 2016, please click the button on the right below.