Germany is not doing enough to prevent and combat racism and intolerance, according to a Council of Europe report. The report cites deficits mainly in the registration of such crimes and their prosecution.
Germany has to do more in its fight against racism and intolerance, according to the Council of Europe's Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI). In its report, published Tuesday (25.02.2014), ECRI demands tougher penalties and greater sensitivity for racist and homophobic crimes.
The problem is worse than the official statistics show, says the report. ECRI came to this conclusion by comparing data on prosecutions and reports from non-governmental organizations (NGOs). For example: there were 186 so-called homophobic hostilities officially registered in 2012. But a four year old NGO poll among gays, lesbians, bi- and transsexual people shows that one third of the 24,000 participants have been victims of homophobic hostilities in the year before. It is important that German authorities reform their registration system for homophobic incidents, says Francois Sant'Angelo, one of the authors of the report.
Little confidence in the prosecution
Another problem, besides the incomplete registration, is the lack of confidence in the German investigation process – not least because of the problems during the investigation into the neo-Nazi NSU murders. Many victims of racist assaults don't report them to the authorities, says the report. The report recommends the creation of an independent complaint office to make it easier for the victims.
ECRI also wants better legal assistance for the victims of discrimination. Christine Lüders from the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency supports this demand. "For example, it is important that the Anti-Discrimination Agency is given the right to take action," she said.
The report also points out deficits in the German penal code. It criticizes that initiatives of the Bundesrat, the upper chamber of parliament, in 2008 and 2012, demanding tougher penalties for racist perpetrators, were not codified into law. The original idea behind the initiatives was to make racist motives tantamount to aggravated assault, thus automatically increasing the penalty. Moreover, ECRI noted, Paragraph 130 of the German penal code, which deals with incitement, needs a revision. According to that paragraph, racist statements "which endanger public peace" are punishable; however, that is often hard to prove. This caveat, the report says, should be removed.
Praise for the Anti-Discrimination Agency
The report, nevertheless, reserves some praise for Germany. Prevention programs to lure young people away from the neo-Nazi scene are viewed as a positive response to the problem. Renewed efforts to ban the far-right NPD party are also welcomed.
Germany's Anti-Discrimination Agency is especially praised for its pilot project to introduce anonymous application processes which are meant to ensure that no applicant is excluded by an employer because of age or origin. ECRI recommends that the Anti-Discrimination Agency receive more resources and more expertise. Christine Lüders says that with more resources the agency could employ more counsellors for affected people.
The recommendations of ECRI – which is not an EU institution – are not binding. The reports are prepared every five years for all the 47 member states of the Council of Europe. The phenomenon of growing intolerance is seen all over Europe, stressed the report's co-author Francois Sant'Angelo.