As in previous years, Germany failed to address human rights violations committed in the context of the US-led “war on terror”, including its involvement in renditions (unlawful transfers of suspects between countries). Germany again referred to diplomatic assurances as appropriate means in deportation cases where individuals may be at risk of serious human rights abuses, in violation of its obligations under international law. Irregular migrants continued to be deprived of their economic, social and cultural rights.
Counter-terror and security
The Federal Prosecutor stated in September that evidence obtained through “dubious circumstances” in a foreign country may be used – although carefully – in a criminal procedure, especially to prevent terrorist attacks. As well as stating that the burden of proof lies fully with the defendant, the Federal Prosecutor also argued that evidence obtained in a manner which violated German standards could be used to initiate a criminal investigation. He did not exclude evidence obtained through torture.
Draft regulatory rules governing the Aliens Act were proposed by the Ministry of Interior in October. The rules anticipated the use of diplomatic assurances to eliminate the danger of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment faced by those returned to their country of origin. Amnesty International and other human rights organizations considered such assurances in contravention of international obligations against torture.
Two Tunisian nationals continued to be at risk of expulsion on the basis that the Federal Ministry of Interior considered that assurances from the Tunisian government were sufficient to eliminate the risk the men would face on return. The judicial review of the cases was still pending at the end of the year. Criminal investigations to prove the involvement of one of the Tunisians in terrorism-related activities were closed in March.
In June the parliamentary committee of inquiry concluded its preliminary investigations into involvement by the German authorities in the US-led rendition programme. Government and intelligence officials were not willing to co-operate with the committee effectively. Delays and failures by the authorities to provide some of the files requested by the committee severely impeded its investigations.
"Amnesty International criticized the government’s discriminatory approach on the admission of Iraqi refugees"
The committee’s Special Prosecutor revealed that Egyptian nationals Ahmed Agiza and Mohammed El Zari were subject to rendition to Egypt in December 2001 through German airspace and that one CIA rendition flight, carrying the Egyptian national Abu Omar who was abducted in Italy in February 2003, had landed at Ramstein airbase en route to Egypt. The German authorities failed to introduce measures to prevent future renditions through its territory, including its air space.
In June, the Tübingen Public Prosecutor terminated investigations into the alleged ill-treatment of Murat Kurnaz by members of the German Special Forces Command (Kommando Spezialkräfte, KSK) while in US custody in Afghanistan in 2002 for lack of evidence, although he accepted Murat Kurnaz’ testimony as credible. A request to hear US Army personnel as witnesses had been turned down by the US authorities. The parliamentary inquiry into the same allegations was closed in September for the same reason. However, members of opposition parties spoke of strong evidence supporting Murat Kurnaz’ allegations against the German soldiers.
In June, German national Khaled el-Masri filed a legal complaint to force the government to pursue the extradition of 13 US citizens suspected of transferring him illegally to Afghanistan. Extradition warrants were issued by a Munich court in January 2007 but not handed over to the US government.
Refugees and asylum-seekers
In an accelerated asylum procedure at Frankfurt Airport on 14 May, immigration authorities forcibly returned Eritrean nationals Yonas Haile Mehari and Petros Aforki Mulugeta after their asylum claims were rejected as manifestly unfounded. Both men were arrested upon arrival in Eritrea. On 20 July they were transferred to Adi Abeto prison. On 30 July, Petros Aforki Mulugeta was transferred to Wia prison. Yonas Haile Mehari, classified as a military deserter by the authorities, was transferred to his military unit where he was at risk of torture and other ill-treatment.
Amnesty International criticized the government’s discriminatory approach on the admission of Iraqi refugees. The Minister of Interior had provoked controversy in April when he announced that only Iraqi Christians would be admitted. After a public debate the policy was modified to apply to religious minorities in general and other vulnerable Iraqi refugees. However, in July Chancellor Merkel, on the request of the Iraqi Prime Minister, halted preparations for the admission of Iraqi refugees as well as for reaching a resettlement decision within the EU. Following the conclusions of the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council in November, the German Minister of Interior agreed in December that 2,500 Iraqi refugees from particularly vulnerable groups in Jordan and Syria would be admitted to Germany.
All public institutions, including those that provide social services, are required by law to report the identity of any irregular migrant to the authorities. This provision restricts migrants’ access to health care and access to judicial remedies in case of violation of their labour rights, and children’s access to education.
Police and security forces
- A man, A.Ö., died in hospital on 5 March after falling into a coma while in police custody in Hagen on 17 February where he had been bound face-down. The Office of the Public Prosecutor terminated its investigations and found that the force used by the police was proportionate, despite the fact that since 2000, police officers have been trained not to restrain a person face-down because of the danger of asphyxia.
In December, the regional court of Dessau acquitted two police officers of killing Oury Jalloh as a result of negligence. Oury Jalloh had died in 2005 from heat shock caused by a fire in his cell while in police custody. In its oral reasons for the judgment, the court strongly criticized the testimonies of most of the police officers who were witnesses in the court case.
Legal developments – economic, social and cultural rights
Contrary to previous years, the government actively supported the draft optional protocol of the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and voted in favour of its adoption by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 2008.
Amnesty International reportsState of denial: Europe’s role in rendition and secret detention (24 June 2008)
Germany: Submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review - Fourth session of the UPR Working Group of the Human Rights Council, February 2009 (8 September 2008)