Homosexuelle Initiative (HOSI) Wien

1. Lesben- und Schwulenverband Österreichs

Brief von ILGA Europa an Kommisionspräsidenten Romano Prodi, 29 Feb 2000 (Englisch)

Bruxelles, 29 February 2000

Human rights violations in Austria – Your meeting with President Klestil

Dear Mr Prodi,

We are writing to you to express our deep concern about the new government in Austria and the negative effects this may have on the already precarious situation of lesbians and gays in Austria.

The new coalition government is formed by the ÖVP and FPÖ, two parties that in the past have blocked the repeal of a provision in the Austrian penal code that, according to a decision of the European Human Rights Commission, is a breach of human rights. In 1997, it had ruled that an unequal age of consent for homosexual and heterosexual relations is a breach of the European Human Rights Convention. In 1998, the UN Human Rights Committee, having considered Austria’s periodical report according to Article 40 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, requested Austria to repeal this law provision. Moreover, the European Parliament has urged Austria in four resolutions to abolish Article 209 of its penal code.

Austria has ignored all these requests and continues to violate the human rights of homosexuals. Article 209 continues to be applied, there are around 20 convictions every year, and people have to serve long prison terms. The responsibility for this non-compliance lies exclusively with the ÖVP and the FPÖ as they voted down bills to repeal Article 209 on two occasions in the previous legislative period.

In 1995, ÖVP and FPÖ also voted down a bill that would have extended the compensation arrangements for persons persecuted by the nazis on religious, political and racial grounds to those persecuted on grounds of their sexual orientation. Thus, lesbian and gay concentration camp survivors continue to be refused compensation on the same scale as other victim groups.

Now, as these two parties form the new government, we are deeply concerned that these human rights violations will not only continue but may even increase. We are concerned that the new government may even re-introduce two other provisions violating fundamental human rights of lesbians and gay men that were only repealed in 1996: the ban on gay and lesbian associations and all positive information on homosexuality. These laws were a serious violation of the freedom of assembly and of expression.

Our concerns, moreover, have not been dissipated by the declaration made by the new government in its preamble to the coalition programme – on the contrary: there is no mention at all that the new government would respect human rights of and equality for lesbians and gay men, fight homophobia or finally grant compensation to the gay and lesbian victims of the nazi regime.

We understand that you will meet Austrian Federal President Thomas Klestil on 8 March of this year. We request that you, on this occasion, ask that Austria repeal Article 209 and that it include persons persecuted by the nazis on grounds of sexual orientation in the existing legal compensation arrangements. Additionally, Austria must immediately release from prison all persons jailed under Article 209 – a demand that also was put forward by the European Parliament in its resolution B4-0824 and 0852/98 of 17 September 1998. We understand that Thomas Klestil in his capacity as Federal President has some discretionary power to give amnesty to those imprisoned.

It is completely intolerable that a member state of the European Union continues to imprison persons on the basis of a legal provision that has to be considered a violation of human rights. The maintenance of Article 209 is a serious and persistent breach of the principles referred to in Article 6 (1) of the Treaty on European Union. Should Austria not be prepared to immediately stop this serious violation of human rights, the appropriate consequence must be to open a procedure against Austria as provided for by Article 7 TEU.

We expect that you and the other members of the European Commission take the human rights of lesbians and gays as seriously as those of anybody else. If you need any further information, please contact us.

In view of the gravity of this matter, we would also request to meet you and discuss it with you personally.

We look forward to your kind reply and remain

yours sincerely,

Jackie Lewis
Co-chair of the Executive Board