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Has Germany suddenly become repressive?

Laut Amnesty International State repression of protests has increased around the world. The human rights organization said on Tuesday that authorities were increasingly using unlawful force and enacting repressive laws to prevent protests.

In at least 86 of the 156 countries examined, state authorities used unlawful violence against demonstrators last year, Amnesty said. Security forces used lethal weapons in 37 countries, and protesters were arbitrarily detained in 79 of the countries examined. Some of them were subjected to severe repression in prison and were tortured and mistreated.

The investigation period remains unclear

Amnesty International has created a global “Protest Map” that includes countries such as China, Iran, Peru and India. However, it remains unclear which period of time the study took into account – which reduces the informative value. When asked, it was said that “the focus” was on the past year.

The statement published by Amnesty on Tuesday regarding Germany contains misleading information. The human rights activists write: “For the first time” Germany is also listed as a country in which the right to freedom of assembly is increasingly restricted, “through preventive detention, painkillers, repressive legislation and bans on assembly.”

When asked, the organization explains that Germany was included in the global investigation for the first time ever. Amnesty admits that there can therefore be no question of a sudden and rapid increase in repressive action against demonstrators.

And with a view to Germany, the investigation period remains unclear. The focus is on the past year, it is also said here. However, events such as the G-20 summit that took place in Hamburg in 2017 were also taken up.

These vagueness reduce the significance of the study, which does address aspects that are worthy of criticism – such as preventive detention. Bavaria in particular has made use of this when dealing with activists from the “last generation”.

In practically all federal states, police laws provide for the instrument of preventive detention. The regulations mostly originated in the early 2000s, at the time of the Islamist terrorist attacks. How long preventive detention can last varies from country to country. In Bavaria, people can be imprisoned for up to 60 days to prevent announced crimes – in the event of an extension. In Berlin, the deprivation of liberty must be ended by the end of the next day at the latest, i.e. after a maximum of 48 hours.

The Governing Mayor Kai Wegner (CDU) has recently repeatedly called for reform. He advocates that potential criminals can be detained for several days as a preventive measure.

In neighboring Brandenburg, detention must also end after 48 hours; However, if crimes against life and limb are suspected, it can be extended to four days. Since 2019, there has also been a regulation according to which “threats” to counter terrorism can initially be detained for 14 days and, after an extension, for a further 14 days. When six climate activists blocked air traffic at BER airport, which is located in Brandenburg, it was not used.

The preventive detention of climate activists is not only criticized by Amnesty International. The German Association of Judges, the largest German representation of judges and public prosecutors, reminded the FAZ some time ago what preventive detention is all about: “Preventive detention represents a significant encroachment on the fundamental right to freedom of the person,” said the Federal Managing Director Sven Rebehn.

Those affected would not be repressively punished for a crime that has been proven to have been committed, but would be taken into custody to prevent a future crime or serious administrative offense. “Constitutionally, this is only possible within narrow limits,” said Rebehn. The measure is subject to a “particularly strict proportionality test”. The courts “examined very carefully in each individual case whether and for how long a deprivation of liberty is essential and therefore justified for reasons of averting danger.”

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