Germany - Amnesty International Report 2007

Human Rights in Federal Republic of Germany

Amnesty International  Report 2013


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Head of state: Horst Köhler
Head of government: Angela Merkel
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
International Criminal Court: ratified

Germany was implicated in abuses linked to the US-led "war on terror". Asylum laws left refugees whose status had been withdrawn vulnerable to deportation to unsafe countries.

Background

In September, Germany signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Renditions

The authorities failed to hold anyone responsible for Germany's involvement in the USA's programme of secret detentions and renditions - the unlawful transfer of people between states outside of any judicial process.

In May, a parliamentary committee of inquiry decided to investigate the case of German citizen Muhammad Zammar. He was apprehended in Morocco in December 2001, allegedly by Moroccan security services, and subsequently transferred to Syria, reportedly on a US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) plane. He was reportedly tortured in the Palestine Branch (Far' Falastin) of Military Intelligence in Damascus, the Syrian capital. In November 2002, a delegation of German intelligence and law enforcement officials interrogated Muhammad Zammar in Syria for three days. Even though he was detained without access to family, a lawyer or German embassy officials, the delegation did nothing to help him and failed to inform the German embassy or his family about his situation. In October 2006 Muhammad Zammar was apparently charged by Syria's Supreme State Security Court, including with offences related to membership of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. If convicted, he could face the death penalty. At the end of 2006 he was reportedly held in Sednaya prison on the outskirts of Damascus. Germany had not held to account anyone responsible, directly or indirectly, for any human rights violations suffered by Muhammad Zammar.

In May the same parliamentary committee of inquiry began looking into the case of Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen who was detained in Macedonia in December 2003, handed to US officials, and later secretly flown to Afghanistan via Iraq. In Afghanistan, he said he was beaten and given insufficient food. He was interrogated repeatedly by US agents and by a uniformed German-speaking man. In May 2004 he was released and returned to Germany via Albania. On 1 June the German Federal Intelligence Service declared that one of its staff members had been told about Khaled el-Masri's detention in December 2003, but had failed to report it.

Torture and other ill-treatment

In relation to alleged terrorist suspects, Germany failed to respect the prohibition on torture and other ill-treatment.

In August, after negotiations between the government and the US authorities, German-born Turkish citizen Murat Kurnaz was released from US detention at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Classified government documents leaked in March showed that the USA had offered to release Murat Kurnaz in 2002, but Germany had proposed that he be sent to Turkey even though there was no evidence that he had committed a crime. Following his release, Murat Kurnaz said that while held earlier in US detention in Kandahar, Afghanistan, German soldiers banged his head on the ground. The prosecutor's office in Tübingen started an investigation into this allegation. German soldiers who helped guard the prison in Kandahar confirmed that there had been a German-speaking detainee there.

In November the German Federal Court of Justice found Moroccan citizen Mounir el-Motassadeq guilty of being an accessory to murder on 246 counts in connection with the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York on 11 September 2001. He was sentenced to seven years' imprisonment. In June 2005, the Hamburg Supreme Court had ruled that evidence possibly obtained under torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment was admissible in the retrial, a ruling that breached international law.

Universal jurisdiction

In March, the German Attorney General decided not to prosecute the former Uzbekistani Minister of Internal Affairs Zokir Almatov, who was reportedly one of the commanders of the security forces responsible for a mass killing in the Uzbekistani city of Andizhan in May 2005. Zokir Almatov had already fled Germany, where he had been receiving medical treatment, after he was alerted to an attempt to persuade the federal prosecutor to open a criminal investigation against him under Germany's Code of Crimes against International Law. This law allows courts to exercise universal jurisdiction in cases of alleged crimes against humanity, war crimes or genocide, irrespective of where they were committed or the nationality of the accused and the victims.

In November a criminal complaint was filed against the US former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and other high-ranking US officials for alleged crimes under international law committed in Iraq and at Guantánamo Bay. The complaint was based on the Code of Crimes against International Law.

Refugees at risk

The Federal Agency for Migration and Refugees continued to withdraw refugee status from individuals, particularly those from Afghanistan and Iraq, even though they would not be safe if returned. After refugee status was withdrawn, the residence permits of the individuals concerned were often cancelled, putting them at risk of deportation to their country of origin. In November the Interior Minister declared that people could be deported to northern Iraq.

The government proposed new asylum legislation that did not fully conform to international refugee laws and standards as well as European Union directives. For example, individuals would not be properly protected against religious persecution. The proposal also failed to resolve the issue of the approximately 200,000 people with "leave to remain" status, among whom were people whose asylum claims had been rejected but who had not been deported for humanitarian reasons. Their continued stay in Germany was decided on a monthly basis and they had restricted access to the labour market. The proposal would give these people a two-year residence permit provided that they had found employment by the end of September 2007.

Police accountability

In November, the Regional Court of Dessau refused, on grounds of insufficient evidence, to open proceedings against two policemen allegedly involved in the death of Sierra Leonean citizen Oury Jalloh, who died in 2005 after being burned alive in a police cell. He had been chained to his bed allegedly because he had resisted arrest. Preliminary investigations by the State Attorney concluded that the fire alarm in Oury Jalloh's cell had been switched off during the incident.

AI country reports/visits

Report

Partners in crime: Europe's role in US renditions

(AI Index: EUR 01/008/2006)