Chipping Away at Germans′ Rights | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 24.05.2005
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Chipping Away at Germans' Rights

A newly published report on human and basic legal rights sees a disheartening situation in Germany, especially in terms of national security.


Whether extreme or low key, security measures are a daily affair

Video surveillance at work, a ban on head scarves for public school teachers, automatic identification of cars' license plates, forced work via new labor laws. What do these things have to do with one another? At first glance, nothing. But according to the publisher of a recent report, they all add up to one thing: a chipping away at basic legal and human rights in Germany.

Walk of Islam - Modenschau für islamische Frauen, Kopftuch

Muslim woman in headscarf

The contributors to the report, including Pro Asyl, the International Human Rights League, and the Union of Democratic Lawyers (VJD), are especially critical of the so-called security laws that are being adopted in Germany since the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the United States.

Shooting of innocents allowed

One of the most serious encroachments was the recently passed airline security law, which says a passenger aircraft may be shot down in an emergency terror situation, according to Martin Kutschma, a German professor of state and civil law.


A Middle East Airline plane over Syria

"It allows for the killing of entirely innocent people," Kutschma said. "Practically speaking, the lives of these people are counted against the lives of those who could be saved. We consider that to be a very dangerous encroachment on human rights, because it is a direct attack on the elementary basic right, a right to life."

Hartz IV -- a rights breach?

In addition, there are human rights infringements that results from the new packet of social laws known as Hartz IV, the reports' authors said. Some experts said it is proven that the Hartz IV laws -- which include substantial cuts to benefits provided to the long-term unemployed -- lead to increased discrimination and social marginalization. Why? Because those affected are excluded from participating in society, the critics say.

Nur wenige Protestteilnehmer zu Hartz IV versammeln sich am Montag (03.01.2005) vor der Arbeitsvermittlungsagentur in Mainz.

Hartz IV demonstrators

Heiner Bielefeld, who leads the German Human Rights League, noted an increasing disregard for basic and human rights in democratic countries world wide. The most extreme example is the US military detention camp at Guantanamo Bay.

Guantanamo : cynical and risky

"Guantanamo is not only a symbol for cynical, systematically organized trampling of human rights. Guantanamo Bay has also become a symbol for a security risk, for the generation of new terrorist threats," he said. "It is not even reasonable in terms of security policy to fixate on one single, narrow aspect of security."

The debate over the use of torture to extract a confession in the case of the kidnapping and murder of a bankers' son in Frankfurt, shows clearly how far things have already gone in Germany, Bielefeld said. He noted that there are even legal scholars who have published the opinion that torture should be used in certain situations.

Addressing the hooligan issue

Another explosive rights topic is the government's dealings with soccer fans who act out in public.

Law student Wilko Zichts complains that rowdy fans are sometimes denied access to stadiums although they have yet to be convicted of anything in a court of law. The police lumping peaceful fans together with hooligans, he said. Legally, Zicht said, he finds the idea of a stadium-ban, most often pronounced by the football clubs more than questionable.

Hooligans in Charleroi, Euro 2000

Belgian riot police clubs an English soccer fan in Charleroi

"The stadium ban isn't even annulled when the preliminary legal proceedings are cancelled due to immateriality or a lack of public interest," he said. "It stays in effect for three or five years, without there ever being a legal judgement -- or without their ever having proved that the person in question committed a crime or presented a danger."

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