“Underpants down to the knee”: climate activist takes action against official action

“Underpants down to the knee”: climate activist takes action against official action
Climate activists in Vienna (symbol image)

The officer responsible at the time referred to the Security Police Act on the witness stand. The legal representative of the 24-year-old referred to existing case law and accused the police of being disproportionate. Previously, the “Last Generation” had lodged a complaint.

The 24-year-old was arrested as a member of the climate protection group on February 20 after a sticking action in Vienna and taken to the police detention center in Rossauer Lände. There the activist first had to routinely get rid of his clothes in a three-square-meter “visiting room” to be x-rayed. “You are searched and frisked and you strip down to your underpants,” said the activist. An officer then asked him to take off his underwear as well. “At the time I had the information that I didn’t have to do it and I refused,” said the 24-year-old before the judge. “Then we discussed until the officer fetched his colleague, who came into the room and put on his gloves,” said the activist. “I then assumed that they might force her down on me. I then did it myself.” The policeman “then took a quick look” and said he could put his underwear back on.

Procedure “be customary”

The responsible group inspector, who was called as a witness at the time, admitted the facts to the judge on Friday, but emphasized that the procedure was customary. “This is simply a measure for self-protection and for third-party security,” said the official. “We have already found mini mobile phones, drugs or knives in underwear,” said the group inspector. The State Police Directorate – a police lawyer apologized for illness at the hearing on Friday – had already admitted the procedure in a message to the 24-year-old’s legal representative. Accordingly, the authority takes the position that the official act is not a search because the officer only wanted to see whether there were dangerous objects hidden in the underwear.

However, the Administrative Court (VwGH) had already decided such questions differently twice, emphasized the legal representative of the 24-year-old, Antonia Nagl, in court. “The inspection of the naked body for the purpose of checking the underwear was treated as a search.”

Lawyer: Degrading or humiliating

The judge also interjected that it can be degrading or humiliating to undress in front of strangers. “This is standard procedure,” the inspector emphasized. “We always tell them to pull them down to their knees.” There were no indications that the climate activist was endangering himself or others, “but you can never know in advance,” said the police officer. He also suspected that he might have found super glue in the man’s underwear. “It could have been that someone stuck to us in the PAZ and we don’t need that.”

However, the activist countered that non-violence, both verbal and physical, is an important credo of the “last generation”. He only wanted to make a political statement with his protest action on the street and already emphasized at the time that he had not been arrested because he “wanted to hurt someone”, but because of an administrative violation.

suspense before the verdict

“Of course, such an official act is an encroachment on fundamental rights, which may only take place if it is proportionate,” Nagl clarified. The case shows “a lack of awareness of fundamental rights” among the Vienna police. Such an intervention should “never be a standard procedure, but it must always be weighed up in each individual case.” If there were no indications that detainees would hide dangerous or escape-encouraging objects in their underwear, then such measures violated their fundamental rights, it said.

After questioning the witness and the activist, the judge declared the trial closed. The verdict will be in writing and will be delivered to the parties next week.

As early as February, the “Last Generation” had criticized the executive branch for the actions in the police detention center. The 24-year-old and another activist then filed complaints about “searching the unclothed body”. The activist’s complaint is still pending. The hearing on Friday was the first in Vienna on this issue in connection with activists of the “Last Generation”

Source: Nachrichten

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