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Austria

General Information

Admission to the OSCE:  25 June 1973

OSCE Chairmanship in 2000

OSCE Secretariat: Since 1993, Austria has hosted the OSCE Secretariat, which, under the direction of the Secretary General, provides operational support to the Organization. The Permanent Council, which is formed by the delegates of the 56 participating States, is the body for regular political consultation and decision-making on all issues pertinent to the OSCE. It convenes weekly at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna to discuss current developments in the OSCE area and to make appropriate decisions.

Policing overview: The National Police is the main law enforcement unit in Austria in charge of ensuring public order and security, preventing and combating crime, and assisting civil society. The Prison Guards (Justizwache) are in charge of guarding detention centres and prison inmates, but also of working in various institutions within these prisons.


National Police

1. Functions and missions
2. Structure and organization
3. Staff data
4. Education / Training
5. Oversight

1. Functions and missions
The mission of the National Police (Bundespolizei) is to maintain public safety, fight crime, and assist civil society in various ways, including crime prevention measures.

2. Structure and organization
The Austrian National Police was re-organized in 2005, consolidating the former law enforcement bodies (i.e. the Public Security Constabulary, Criminal Investigation Service and Gendarmerie) into a single unit.

The General Directorate for Public Security (Generaldirektion fuer oeffentliche Sicherheit) is part of the Ministry of the Interior and is in charge of: approx. 1000 police stations within district commands (27 city police commands and 83 district police commands). The district commands are part of 9 provincial police commands. 

The laws outlining the powers/duties of the National Police are the:

  • Police Law (Sicherheitspolizeigesetz or SPG);
  • Criminal Code of Procedure (Strafprozessordnung or StPO); and
  • Criminal Law (Strafgesetzbuch or StGB)

3. Staff data
As of 2006, total policing staff numbered approximately 20,000 serving throughout the country's nine provinces.

4. Education / Training
The Security Academy (Sicherheitsakademie, SIAK), part of the Ministry of the Interior, provides basic, as well as continuing education and training. Ten Training Centres for Security Forces (Bildungszentren der Sicherheitsexekutive, BZS) offer further police training, with centres located in all nine federal provinces.

Basic training: After passing an entry level exam (i.e. written test, followed by an interview and medical exam), candidates start a 24-month basic training programme that consists of:

  • 12 months training in theory;
  • 2 months ‘on the job’ training at a police station;
  • 7 months main training at the Training Centres; and
  • 3 months ‘on the job’ at a police station.

Basic training concludes with a final exam.

Continuing training: This is offered according to the needs and requirements of the service, as well as to educate more specialized officers (e.g. criminal investigation officers).

5. Oversight
The Federal Bureau for Internal Affairs (BIA) is an autonomous agency of the Austrian Federal Ministry of the Interior that operates outside the classical law enforcement structures. In its capacity as an independent autonomous organizational unit which is not bound by instructions regarding the cases it handles, it conducts security and criminal police investigations in cases of corruption or suspected malpractice by public officers. In such cases, the BIA co-operates directly with the competent public prosecutor’s offices and courts.

The BIA conducts investigations nationwide and, given its sphere of responsibilities, represents a centre of competence for all other security services. Other important tasks performed by the BIA are training programmes and the prevention of corruption. In addition to organizing and conducting courses, seminars and advanced career coaching programmes at the Austrian Security Academy for colleagues from the Ministry of the Interior, BIA staff members have repeatedly been invited to give lectures at national and international educational institutions and at conferences.

The BIA acts as the Ministry’s contact point for all anti-corruption matters and delegates staff members to Austrian and international meetings of experts. Furthermore, it interacts with a number of local government bodies, NGOs and interest groups involved in anti-corruption activities.

At the international level, the BIA was also instrumental in initiating and setting up an informal association of the Police Monitoring and Inspection Bodies of the EU Member Countries as well as of the national Anti-Corruption Agencies. Moreover, the BIA is tasked with assuring technical networking as well as safeguarding and intensifying international cooperations in the fight against corruption.

To view the organization chart, please go to the Attachments section below.

Shooting incidents are investigated by the Cobra Special Forces.

Attachments

  Organization Chart - BIA [English] (55.52 Kb) Organization Chart - BIA [English] (Format: PDF) http://polis.osce.org/countries/view?item_id=9&attach_id=175
Organization chart of the Federal Bureau for Internal Affairs, Austria
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Cobra Special Forces

1. General information
2. Structure and organization
3. Staff data
4. Education / Training

1. General information
The  Cobra Special Forces Unit (Einsatzkommando Cobra, EKO) is Austria’s elite policing unit, dealing not only with combating terrorism, but also with situations which require special training and equipment, such as:

  • resolving hostage situations where peaceful solutions cannot be reached;
  • arresting armed and dangerous criminals;
  • assisting special criminal investigation units in their fight against organized crime;
  • protecting persons and institutions classified as being at high risk;
  • providing in-flight security on flights of the ‘Austrian Airlines Group’ (Air Marshal Programme);
  • providing security escorts for money transports; and
  • providing security services for Austrian missions abroad.

2. Structure and organization
In reaction to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in the United States, Austrian security measures were re-evaluated. The resulting reform consolidated the Mobile Response Unit, the Special Response Unit and the Gendarmerie Response Unit into a single unit, the Cobra Special Forces (EKO). 

To increase its rapid response ability, five locations with an additional three field units were established with Headquarters in Wiener Neustadt (ca. 50 km south of Vienna). They are: Wiener Neustadt (HQ), Vienna, Graz, Linz and Innsbruck. To streamline administration, field units for Klagenfurt, Salzburg and Feldkirch were incorporated into the Graz, Linz and Innsbruck locations, respectively.

3. Staff data
The Cobra Special Forces is headed by the Commander-in-Chief, assisted by local commanders and their staff in five locations (Wiener Neustadt, Vienna, Graz, Linz, and Innsbruck).

4. Education / Training
Austrian police officers can apply for admission to the Wiener Neustadt Training Academy. Initial screenings test for medical, psychological and physical prerequisites, and, if successfully completed, are followed by a six-month basic training on topics including tactics, marksmanship, sports, driving skills, hand-to-hand combat, psychology, languages etc. After this basic training, Cobra members have the option to undertake further special training, such as parachuting, scuba diving, and sharpshooting.

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Prison Guards

1. General information
2. Education / Training

1. General information
The Prison Guards (Justizwache) are directly subordinate to the Ministry of Justice and are in charge, not only of guarding detention centres and prison inmates, but also of working in various institutions within these prisons (e.g. prison workshops). The total number of staff is approximately 3,000.

2. Education / Training
Education includes regular training in the institutions of the School of Prison Guards, which belongs to the Ministry of Justice, and in the Penal System's Centre  for Continuing Education, as well as through external educational bodies.

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Criminal Justice System

1. General information
2. Prosecution
3. Pre-trial police and judicial powers

1. General information
The federal court system includes District Courts, Regional Courts (=Courts of First Instance), Courts of Appeal (=Courts of Second Instance), and the Supreme Court.

Courts try both civil and criminal cases. Each District Court covers an area extending over one or more communes; each Regional Court covers several district courts. The Courts of Appeal each cover two or more lower courts.

2. Prosecution
Offices of public prosecution are special authorities separated from the courts which above all protect the public interest of the justice in penal affairs. This contains mainly the indictment and the representation during the trial and thus the offices of public prosecution are also called accusation authorities. The offices of public prosecution are not independent, but structured hierarchically and bound to instructions of the senior office of public prosecution and finally of the Federal Minister of Justice.

In carrying out their duties, Public Prosecutors are authorized to have direct contact with, and enlist the support of, police authorities and other authorities.

3. Pre-trial police and judicial powers
See Attachments section for the chart on the division of power.

Attachments

  Pre-trial Police and Judicial Powers [English] (8.29 Kb) Pre-trial Police and Judicial Powers [English] (Format: PDF) http://polis.osce.org/countries/view?item_id=9&attach_id=176
Chart showing the division of power between police, prosecutors, and judges (Source: Interpol)
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Links

Federal Ministry of the Interior - Austria  Federal Ministry of the Interior - Austria http://www.bmi.gv.at/
Official website of the Austrian Federal Ministry of the Interior

Ministry of Justice - Austria  Ministry of Justice - Austria http://www.justiz.gv.at/
Official website of the Austrian Ministry of Justice

National Police - Austria  National Police - Austria http://www.polizei.gv.at/
Official website of the Austrian National Police (Bundespolizei)

Cobra Special Forces - Austria  Cobra Special Forces - Austria http://www.bmi.gv.at/cobra/
Official website of the Cobra Special Forces (Einsatzkommando Cobra)

Federal Bureau of anti-corruption - Austria  Federal Bureau of anti-corruption - Austria http://www.bak.gv.at/
Official website of the Federal Bureau of anti-corruption

Federal Ministry of the Interior, Police Training Academy - Austria  Federal Ministry of the Interior, Police Training Academy - Austria http://www.siak.at
Official website of the Austrian Police Training Academy

OSCE / ODIHR Legislationline - Austria  OSCE / ODIHR Legislationline - Austria http://www.legislationline.org/countries/country/44
Legislationline is a gratis internet-based legislative database published and maintained by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

Last Updated: 11 January 2007

Also see: Czech Republic, Liechtenstein, Germany, Italy, Hungary, Slovenia, Slovak Republic, Switzerland

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