Country Summary: The Convention has been in force between the United States and Austria since 1988. In 2021, Austria demonstrated a pattern of noncompliance. Specifically, the judicial authorities failed to regularly implement and comply with the provisions of the Convention, and law enforcement regularly failed to enforce return orders rendered by the judicial authority in abduction cases. As a result of this failure, 33 percent of requests for the return of abducted children under the Convention remained unresolved for more than 12 months. On average, these cases were unresolved for two years and three months.
Central Authority: While the U.S. and the Austrian Central Authorities have a cooperative relationship, delays in communication about actions to resolve Convention cases are an area of continuing concern.
Voluntary Resolution: The Convention states that central authorities “shall take all appropriate measures to secure the voluntary return of the child or to bring about an amicable resolution of the issues.” In 2021, one abduction case was resolved through voluntary means.
Location: The competent authorities took appropriate steps to locate a child after a Convention application was filed in 2021. It took eight days to locate this child. The competent authorities of Austria failed to take appropriate and expeditious steps to locate another child after an enforcement order was issued for the return of the child. It took 53 days to locate this child, which led to delays in the enforcement and return of the child.
Judicial Authorities: Judicial authorities rendered decisions that were not consistently in accordance with the Convention and there were delays in judicial authorities deciding on a case. In one case, after multiple appeals, the Austrian Supreme Court ordered a lower court to enforce a return order; however, the lower court instead dismissed the Convention case and made a custody decision. While the lower court's order was eventually overturned, these problems in the performance of judicial authorities contributed to a pattern of noncompliance.
Enforcement: While the Supreme Court of Austria ordered the enforcement of a Convention return order in 2021, the lower court and Austrian authorities charged with the enforcement responsibility declined to enforce the order, which contributed to a pattern of noncompliance. After the Supreme Court overruled the lower court's dismissal of its return order, enforcement actions were initiated in December 2021; the child was returned to the United States in January 2022. There was one case (one hundred percent of the unresolved cases) that was pending for more than 12 months in which the competent authorities and law enforcement failed to enforce a return order.
Department Recommendations: The Department will continue engagement with the Austrian authorities to address issues of concern.
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