The absolute prohibition on torture continued to be undermined by government adherence to a policy of deportation with assurances, placing individuals at risk of serious human rights violations. Parliament concluded its inquiry into renditions (unlawful transfer of suspects between countries) and other counter-terrorism related abuses. Irregular migrants were denied their economic, social and cultural rights.
Counter-terror and security
Two criminal cases involving terrorism suspects raised concerns about the use of evidence allegedly obtained through torture.
In a case tried before the Higher Regional Court in Koblenz between December 2008 and July 2009, the prosecution’s indictment relied partly on statements made by the accused while in custody in Pakistan, where he claimed he was beaten and deprived of sleep.
In April, it became known that, in June and September 2008, German investigators had interrogated a detained witness in the presence of the Uzbekistani National Security Service in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, where torture is systematic. The interrogation formed part of the criminal investigations in a case tried before the Higher Regional Court in Düsseldorf.
Regulatory rules governing the Aliens Act entered into force in October. They provide for the use of “diplomatic assurances” to justify returning terrorism suspects to places where they are at risk of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, in contravention of international obligations. Such assurances are unreliable and do not provide an effective safeguard against torture.
The authorities continued to accept “diplomatic assurances” from the Tunisian government as sufficient to eliminate the risk of torture in cases of planned forcible returns of Tunisian nationals suspected of terrorism-related activities.
- In March, the Administrative Court in Düsseldorf ruled in the case of a Tunisian national that “diplomatic assurances” undermine the absolute ban on torture and prohibited the forcible return of the plaintiff. The authorities challenged this ruling and the case was pending at the end of the year.
Parliament debated the report of its inquiry into renditions and secret detention in July. The report concluded that the government and intelligence services had no direct or indirect involvement in renditions and secret detention. However, Amnesty International found that both the inquiry and report provided enough evidence to conclude that Germany was complicit in human rights violations, and criticized parliament for failing to propose any measures to prevent such abuses in future. On 17 June, the Federal Constitutional Court ruled that the government had violated Constitutional Law by not providing the parliamentary committee of inquiry with relevant documents, which the government said should remain classified in order to protect the welfare of the state. The committee of inquiry did not resume its investigation.
Refugees and asylum-seekers
The number of rejected asylum-seekers forcibly returned to Syria increased considerably after a German-Syrian re-admission agreement came into force in January. Following reports of returned Syrian asylum-seekers being detained, the government ordered a risk assessment re-evaluation and recommended a de facto moratorium on deportations to Syria in mid-December.
- Khaled Kenjo, a deported Syrian Kurd, was detained 12 days after his arrival in Syria by the State Security, a Syrian secret service agency, on 13 September. After three weeks of incommunicado detention, during which he said he was tortured, Khaled Kenjo was charged with broadcasting “false” news abroad that could damage the reputation of the state. This charge by the Military Court in Qamishli was allegedly related to his political activities in Germany.
The government negotiated a re-admission agreement with Kosovo. Several federal states forcibly returned Roma to Kosovo despite the risks faced by Roma in cases of enforced return. In November, the Council of Europe Commissioner of Human Rights expressed concern at this practice.
Irregular migrants and their children had limited access to health care, education, and judicial remedies in cases of labour rights violations. Hesse Federal State was due to change its administrative practice on 1 January 2010 so that head teachers would no longer be required to report the identity of a child to the Aliens’ Authority, where foreign nationals are required to register. The new regulatory rules governing the Aliens Act state that public hospitals are exempt from reporting the identity of irregular migrants in cases of emergency treatment.
Police and security forces
In December, the Federal Court of Justice held a public hearing on Oury Jalloh, who died in police custody in 2005 from heat shock caused by a fire in his cell. At the hearing, the Court criticized the investigations. The relatives of Oury Jalloh and the Public Prosecution Office lodged an appeal against the judgement of the Dessau Regional Court which had acquitted two police officers.
In May, the Federal Agency for the Prevention of Torture started its work, under Article 3 of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture. Concerns were raised that it lacked sufficient financial and human resources.
National scrutiny – Kunduz
The government and military came under pressure from the media and opposition parties following the general election for withholding information about a NATO airstrike near Kunduz, Afghanistan, on 4 September. Up to 142 people, including civilians, were killed (see Afghanistan entry). Consequently, three senior government and military officials were forced to resign in November. On 16 December, a parliamentary inquiry began its examination of the government’s handling of the attack and its aftermath.
Economic relations and human rights
In July, the government withdrew the export credit guarantee that it had granted to a German company for its activity in the Ilısu dam project in Turkey. The decision to withdraw was jointly taken with the Swiss and Austrian governments after independent experts concluded that the project would not meet agreed standards. The construction of the dam was expected to displace at least 55,000 people, and the resettlement policy did not meet international human rights standards.
Despite the government’s announcement in 2008 that it would sign and ratify the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, it had not done so by the end of the year.
The Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings had not been ratified by the end of the year and Germany continued to be a destination and transit country for women trafficked for sexual exploitation.