Annual Report: Germany 2013

Report
May 23, 2013

Annual Report: Germany 2013

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FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF GERMANY

Head of state Joachim Gauck (replaced Christian Wulff)

Head of government Angela Merkel

The authorities failed to establish an independent police complaints body and ensure that all police officers on duty wore identity badges. The National Agency for the Prevention of Torture remained severely under-resourced. The authorities continued to return Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians to Kosovo, and to return asylum-seekers to Hungary despite risks of human rights violations there. The authorities refused to rule out seeking diplomatic assurances to facilitate the return of individuals to countries where they were at risk of torture or other ill-treatment.

Torture and other ill-treatment

The authorities continued to fail to address obstacles preventing effective investigation of allegations of ill-treatment by police. No federal state established an independent police complaints body to investigate allegations of serious human rights violations by police. Except for the federal states of Berlin and Brandenburg, police officers remained under no legal obligation to wear identity badges. Police officers in Brandenburg were due to start wearing identification badges in January 2013.

The National Agency for the Prevention of Torture, Germany's national preventive mechanism under the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture, remained severely under-resourced and unable to fulfil its functions, including regular visits to detention sites. Its chairperson and another member resigned in August over the lack of resources.

  • Investigations continued into excessive use of force by police during a demonstration in Stuttgart in September 2010. In October, the Stuttgart local court found one police officer guilty of physical assault, for hitting a protester with a baton, and issued him with an eight-month suspended prison sentence.
  • On 10 October, the Frankfurt Higher Regional Court confirmed the Frankfurt Regional Court judgement of 4 August 2011, which had awarded moral damages worth €3,000 to Markus Gäfgen. He was threatened by two police officers with intolerable pain in 2002 as he was apprehended on suspicion of kidnapping an 11-year-old boy. The first instance court had qualified the threat as “inhuman treatment” under the European Convention on Human Rights.
  • On 13 December, Magdeburg regional court convicted a police officer of negligent homicide for the death of asylum-seeker Oury Jalloh, who burned to death in a cell in Dessau police station in 2005. Despite lengthy legal proceedings, the circumstances of Oury Jalloh's death and the degree of police involvement in it were still not clarified.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

In September and October, 195 refugees from Shousha, Tunisia, and 105 Iraqi refugees who lived in Turkey, arrived on the basis of a new resettlement programme established in December 2011. They were meant to remain in Germany permanently but were not granted the same legal status as refugees under the UN Refugee Convention and were excluded from certain rights, especially relating to family reunification.

On 14 December, the Federal Ministry of Interior prolonged the suspension of asylum-seeker transfers to Greece under the Dublin Regulation (see Greece entry) until 12 January 2014.

Asylum-seekers were transferred to Hungary despite the risks they faced there (see Hungary entry). These included a risk of removal to unsafe third countries due to inadequate procedures in accessing international protection. Asylum-seekers returned from Germany to Hungary after having transited through Serbia were at the risk of refoulement until November, when Hungary stopped considering Serbia as a “safe third country”. Serbia had not granted refugee status to anyone in the last five years.

Several federal states continued to forcibly return Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians to Kosovo despite cumulative forms of discrimination they faced on return. In April, Baden-Württemberg issued a decree requiring individual risk assessments before forcibly returning Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians to Kosovo.

On 18 July, the Federal Constitutional Court ruled that benefits available to asylum-seekers were insufficient to enable them to live in dignity and that this constituted a breach of the right to a dignified minimum existence, as enshrined in Article 1 of the German Constitution. The Court ordered the legislature to immediately enact new provisions as part of the Asylum Seekers Benefits Act.

Counter-terror and security

In September, the EU Parliament called on Germany and other EU member states to disclose all necessary information on all suspect planes associated with the CIA's rendition and secret detention programmes, and to effectively investigate the roles of those states in the CIA operations.

The government again failed to disclose whether it was still requesting “diplomatic assurances” to return individuals suspected of involvement in terrorism-related activities to states where they would face a real risk of torture or other ill-treatment. Regulatory rules governing the Residence Act continued to allow the use of “diplomatic assurances”.

International justice

The first trial based on the German Code of Crimes under International Law of June 2002 against Rwandan citizens Ignace Murwanashyaka and Straton Musoni continued at Stuttgart Higher Regional Court. The accused were indicted on 26 charges of crimes against humanity and 39 war crimes charges for crimes committed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo between January 2008 and November 2009.

Germany did not codify enforced disappearance as a criminal offence, as required by the International Convention against enforced disappearance.

Discrimination

On 29 October, the Higher Administrative Court of Rheinland-Pfalz ruled that federal police officers had violated the constitutional principle of non-discrimination by subjecting a person to an identity check solely on base of his skin colour.

Amnesty International visits/reports

  • Germany: Legal provisions and political practices put persons at risk of human rights violations (EUR 23/002/2012)
  • Submission to the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance on Germany (EUR 23/003/2012)