Ill-treatment, including in the context of renditions
- In August the Tübingen state prosecutor reopened investigations into allegations that German-born Turkish citizen Murat Kurnaz was tortured and otherwise ill-treated by German Special Forces Command officers while in US custody in Afghanistan in 2002. The reopening of the investigation was prompted by the emergence of three new witnesses. Before his release in 2006, Murat Kurnaz had been detained for four years and nine months in total, mostly in Guantánamo Bay.
- In late 2007 the parliamentary committee looking into Germany’s role in human rights violations committed as a result of its counter-terrorist activities began investigating the case of German national Muhammad Zammar. During the hearings, it emerged that the Federal Criminal Police Office had informed the US authorities of Muhammad Zammar’s travel dates for his trip to Morocco in November 2001, from where he was illegally transferred to Syria.
By the end of December 2001 he had been handed over by Moroccan officials to Syria and placed in incommunicado detention, where he was reportedly subjected to torture and ill-treatment.
In November 2002, Muhammad Zammar was interrogated for three days by German intelligence and law enforcement officials whilst in Syrian detention. Upon return to Germany, the officers did not disclose information to the authorities about his whereabouts. He remained in detention at the end of 2007.
- In September the German government announced that it would not pursue the extradition of 13 US citizens, including at least 10 US Central Intelligence Agency operatives, suspected of illegally detaining a Lebanese-born German national, Khaled el-Masri.
Khaled el-Masri was arrested and unlawfully detained while in Macedonia in December 2003. He was handed over to US agents and secretly flown to Afghanistan as part of the US programme of renditions. Following five months of alleged ill-treatment, he was flown to Albania and released after the US authorities apparently realized they had the wrong man.
Extradition warrants for the 13 US citizens were issued by a Munich prosecutor in January 2007. In April, the Federal Constitutional Court found the prosecutor’s decision to tap Khaled el-Masri’s lawyer’s phone to be illegal.
- On counter-terrorism, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights recommended in July that Germany develop specific guidelines for intelligence services regarding the questioning of detainees abroad; ensure that evidence obtained under inhuman or degrading treatment or torture is not admissible in court; and fully investigate alleged cases of renditions on German territory and adopt effective measures to prevent future unlawful renditions.
- On 3 October the European Court of Human Rights indicated to the German government that Hasan Atmaca should not be extradited to Turkey until further notice. On entering Germany in February 2005, Hasan Atmaca was arrested by the German authorities on suspicion of belonging to a criminal organization. The Turkish authorities requested his extradition to Turkey to stand trial on charges of activities in favour of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
In May 2006 the German government sought diplomatic assurances from the Turkish authorities that Hasan Atmaca would be detained in a high security prison meeting international standards and that German authorities could visit him. The Turkish authorities pledged that these assurances would be favourably assessed.
The Frankfurt Higher Regional Court had declared his extradition admissible. However, on 31 May 2007 the Darmstadt Administrative Court instructed the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees to declare Hasan Atmaca a refugee and stated that he could not be deported to Turkey as this might constitute refoulement (forcible return to countries where a person may be at risk of serious human rights violations). Under Section 4 of the German Asylum Procedures Act, receiving refugee status does not impede the German authorities from extraditing a person, in contravention of international standards.
In February it was reported that the Federal Ministry of the Interior had sought diplomatic assurances from Algeria not to torture anyone suspected of involvement in terrorist activity, when returned there from Germany.
In July, an Under Secretary of State travelled to Tunisia to request similar assurances from the Tunisian Minister of Interior over two Tunisian nationals suspected of having links to terrorist organizations. The German authorities then issued deportation orders for the two Tunisian nationals who later contested this decision in court. The judicial reviews were still pending at the end of the year.
Migrant and refugee rights
New legislation implementing 11 European Union (EU) directives in the field of asylum failed to provide adequate protection in cases of people fleeing violence. This meant that, for example, asylum-seekers from central and southern Iraq who were not members of a targeted minority often did not receive adequate protection.
- On 11 July the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights issued a report on his 2006 visit to Germany. Regarding asylum and immigration, the Commissioner called on Germany to introduce protections for refugees who experience persecution because of outward manifestations of religion or sexual orientation.
- On 18 April a report was issued on Germany by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT). It recommended that, in all German states, “the detention of immigration detainees be governed by specific rules reflecting their particular status” and that “the authorities of Hamburg and Niedersachsen, as well as of all other states in Germany, take the necessary measures to ensure that immigration detainees are accommodated in centres specifically designed for that purpose.” The CPT also recommended that the Brandenburg authorities “take steps to ensure the regular presence of a psychologist at Eisenhüttenstadt Detention Centre and develop programmes for the provision of psychosocial care to foreign nationals held there.”
- In January the Regional Court of Dessau, overturning an earlier judgment, opened proceedings against two police officers suspected of involvement in the death of Sierra Leonean Oury Jalloh while in police custody. He died in his cell in January 2005.
One police officer was accused of bodily harm with fatal consequences for allegedly switching off the fire alarm several times. Another officer was accused of killing caused by negligence on the grounds that he may have overlooked a lighter during a personal search.
Oury Jalloh had been chained to his bed allegedly because he had resisted arrest. He died of heat shock. Preliminary investigations by the State Attorney concluded that the fire alarm had been switched off during the incident.