Amnesty International: Germany partially violates freedom of assembly

The human rights organization Amnesty International has investigated the state of the right to assembly in Europe. It also criticizes Germany.

Is the police’s actions against protesters in Germany always proportionate? Amnesty International has a clear answer in a recent report: No. The human rights organization accuses governments in numerous European countries of restricting freedom of assembly and taking repressive action against dissenting opinions.

The human rights organisation said its report on the state of the right to protest in 21 European countries, including Germany, shows “a pattern of repressive laws, disproportionate use of force, arbitrary arrests and prosecutions, and unjustified or discriminatory restrictions”. This pattern extends across the entire continent.

In addition, there is an increasing use of invasive surveillance technologies, which leads to “deterrence and intimidation and thus to a systematic restriction of the right to demonstrate”. According to the Secretary General of Amnesty International in Germany, Julia Duchrow, the research paints “a deeply disturbing picture of a Europe-wide attack on freedom of assembly”.

Climate activists affected by last generation

The NGO also criticized a trend towards defamation of protests and an increasing portrayal of peaceful civil disobedience as a threat to public safety and order. Authorities in Germany, Italy, Spain and Turkey have labeled climate activists as “eco-terrorists” or “criminals.” At the same time, they have “also targeted them with measures to combat organized crime and by using terrorism-related laws.”

One example is May 24, 2023. On that day, 170 police officers in seven countries searched private homes and other properties belonging to the group Last Generation. The suspicion: members of the controversial climate activists may have formed a criminal organization. Under the leadership of the Bavarian Central Office for Combating Extremism and Terrorism (ZET) and the State Criminal Police Office in the Free State, the group’s website was also temporarily shut down. Instead, the sentence “Last Generation represents a criminal organization in accordance with Section 129 of the Criminal Code” was briefly displayed there.

It is a suggestion that the investigators quickly retracted after sharp criticism. Instead, they only spoke of an initial suspicion. A good year after the sensational climax of the authorities’ actions against the climate activists, this question is still occupying investigators from Flensburg to Munich: Is the Last Generation really a criminal organization? Alexander Dobrindt, leader of the CSU parliamentary group in the Bundestag, is firm: “Definitely,” he says shortly after the raid. No, according to a report commissioned by the Berlin Senate Justice Administration in the summer of 2023 – but it ultimately gives investigators some discretion. The extremism investigators at the Munich Public Prosecutor’s Office believe that the suspicion still exists.

Amnesty International criticises some police measures

Julia Duchrow of Amnesty International criticizes the way climate activists and other protesters are being treated: “Protest can and should be disruptive. Instead of restricting politically undesirable protests and punishing those who take to the streets, states across Europe must rethink their approach. They should facilitate and protect protests instead of suppressing them.”

The report also records numerous examples of excessive or unnecessary use of force by the police between 2020 and September 2023 – including incidents that amounted to torture. “The research also found that there are cases of impunity or lack of police accountability in at least 13 of the 21 countries examined, including Germany,” Amnesty criticized.

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Amnesty also criticized preventive measures in Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom. These made it possible to “exclude people from certain locations or future activities – and in some cases even detain them – to prevent them from participating in acts of civil disobedience.”

It is not just climate activists who are affected. Authorities across Europe are also restricting or completely banning pro-Palestinian protests. From the human rights organization’s point of view, these measures are often disproportionate.

Source: Stern

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