Top German court wants database amendments | News | DW | 24.04.2013
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Top German court wants database amendments

Germany's top court has told lawmakers to amend unconstitutional elements of an anti-terror database listing 17,000 individuals, but declared it permissible. The list created in 2007 mainly focuses on Islamist suspects.

The Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe on Wednesday approved the underlying structure of the database but said some of aspects of its legislation were unconstitutional and should be amended by parliament by late 2014.

Access to the Anti-Terror Database (ATD) extends to at least 38 German law-enforcement and security services, including the BKA federal police investigations agency and Germany's multitude of federal and regional intelligence agencies. The German armed forces own intelligence agency, MAD, also has access. Authorities created the database to better track down suspects.

The court said alongside a hard core of 400 suspected violent Islamists the list contained many contact persons, some of whom were blameless but were likely to be subjected to "substantially adverse consequences."

The complainant who filed the constitutional challenge against the database's creation is a retired judge who said it violated each individual's right to regulate his or her own personal information as guaranteed under Germany's constitution, the Basic Law.

Reactions to Boston bombing

Wednesday's ruling coincides with top-level debate in Germany about reactions by domestic authorities to last week's Boston Marathon bombing in the United States, including a call for more video surveillance in Germany from Federal Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich.

Last Sunday, the Constitutional Court's president Andreas Vosskuhle told the newspaper Welt am Sonntag that authorities should treat such calls in the wake of Boston with "prudence," without overreacting.

Friedrich replied on Tuesday: "If constitutional judges want to take part in politics, then they should seek candidacy for the German Bundestag [federal parliament]."

The new head of Germany's Cologne-based domestic intelligence service,  Hans-Georg Maassen, said, however, he viewed the dangers faced by Germany as high but unchanged by last week's events in the United States.

Germany remained in the "crosshairs of international Islamist terrorism," said Maassen.

Consequences for database on right-wing extremists

Observers say Wednesday's Constitutional Court ruling on the ATD could also impact on usage of a similar database set up in 2012 by German authorities to monitor right-wing extremists.

On Tuesday, BKA chief Jörg Ziercke told an intelligence service symposium in Berlin that his agency feared a surge in violence provoked by right-wing extremists in the months leading up to Germany's federal election on 22 September.

"We anticipate in the coming months an increase in conflict between fringe groups of various political camps," said Ziercke.

Such provocation from far-right parties could "incite not only the radical left-wing scene but also supporters of radical Islamist Salafism," he said.

ipj/ccp (dpa, AFP)

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