Austria - OPCAT Situation
Austrian Ombudsman Board (Volksanwaltschaft)
The Austrian Ombudsman Board (AOB) has a coordinating role, ensuring consistency of methodology, organising joint meetings and activities, liaising with the SPT and publishing the NPM annual report. An OPCAT secretariat was established within the Ombuds Institution to coordinate the collaboration with the commissions. It furthermore examines international reports and documents in order to support the NPM with information from similar institutions. The AOB employees who are entrusted with NPM responsibilities are legal experts.
The AOB has established six decentralized Commissions assigned with the task of monitoring places of deprivation of liberty on behalf of the AOB. The members of the Commissions were appointed on 11 July 2012. The regional Commissions conduct monitoring visits to places of deprivation of liberty and submit visit reports to the AOB, for its evaluation. The Chairs of the Commissions participate in meetings with the AOB. Overall, the Commissions monitor over 4,000 public and private institutions and facilities, including prisons, police detention centres, psychiatric institutions, homes for the elderly, long-term care facilities for children and families, facilities and programs for people with disabilities. The AOB and the Commissions’ mandate also include the monitoring of the conduct of enforcement agencies during forced returns, manifestations, campaigns, etc.
A Human Rights Advisory Council has been established to advise the NPM. Its members are delegated by the Ministries, Laender and NGOs. The Human Rights Advisory Council advises the Ombudsman Board on the NPM work, in particular in the definition of general monitoring priorities as well as before the submission of recommendations.
The six regional Commissions are in charge of conducting monitoring visits to places of deprivation of liberty in accordance with the monitoring priorities identified jointly by the AOB and the Chairs of the Commissions, with the advice of the Human Rights Advisory Council.
The following legal parameters to fulfil the new competences under the OPCAT were also created:
- Rules of Procedure of the AOB, its Commissions and the Human Rights Advisory Council (Federal Law Gazette II No. 249/2012, 13 July 2012)
- Allocation of Duties of the AOB, its Commissions and the Human Rights Advisory Council (Federal Law Gazette II No. 250/2012, 13 July 2012)
The first meeting was held in July 2012 and, in September 2012, the AOB and the Commissions organised a workshop to develop a common understanding of the new competences as NPM, as well as of the applicable investigative standards.
The AOB prepares and publishes the NPM annual report, which is presented and discussed in the Austrian Parliament. It is available here.
Other reports, such as visit and thematic reports, may be available on the NPM's website.