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Amnesty International Report 1999 - Germany

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 1 January 1999
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 1999 - Germany, 1 January 1999, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa0810.html [accessed 17 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

GERMANY

There were further allegations of ill-treatment of detainees, many of whom were asylum-seekers, by police officers.

A general election in September resulted in a new government headed by Gerhard Schroeder, who replaced Helmut Kohl as Chancellor.

In May the UN Committee against Torture met to consider Germany's second periodic report on its compliance with the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Committee said that it was concerned at the large number of reports of ill-treatment, mostly in the context of arrest, and at the conclusion of an officially commissioned report that police abuse of foreign nationals was "more than ‘just a few isolated cases'." It was also concerned at the "existence of certain open-ended legal provisions permitting under certain circumstances the discretionary but significant reduction of the legal guarantees of those detained by the police, such as provisions permitting the police in certain cases to refuse permission to someone detained at a police station to notify a relative of his arrest". The Committee expressed particular concern at the "apparently low rate of prosecution and conviction in the alleged incidents of ill-treatment by the police, especially of people of foreign descent." The Committee recommended, among other things, that complaints mechanisms be improved; that disciplinary and judicial measures against offending police officers be "significantly strengthened", in particular by permitting victims to participate in criminal prosecutions and improving procedures for civil damages; and that legislation be amended to ensure that in all cases evidence obtained by use of torture was not admissible in court. It also recommended that police and other officials receive compulsory training in human rights, and in conflict management with particular reference to ethnic minorities, and that Germany continue its efforts to ensure that all detainees were given a form outlining their rights in a language they understood at the outset of their custody.

There were further allegations of police ill-treatment of foreign nationals, particularly asylum-seekers, and members of ethnic minorities. A number of asylum-seekers made allegations about police ill-treatment during attempted deportations at Düsseldorf Airport. Khebil L. alleged that he was hit three or four times at the airport and again later on in an office. Frank E., an asylum-seeker from Rwanda, alleged that he was beaten in February or March when he refused to enter the plane. He described his mouth being "disfigured", and his eyes being "covered by blood". In April Ebezina C. reported that a police officer punched and kicked him, and subjected him to verbal abuse. An investigation into the allegations had not been completed by the end of the year.

Abdul A. alleged that he was beaten and verbally abused by Bremen police officers in February. He said he was stopped by plainclothes police officers, one of whom pointed a handgun at him, and asked for his identity papers. He was then reportedly verbally abused, kicked and punched before being taken to a nearby police station where he was made to undress and detained in a cell for two hours. Later the same day his doctor certified the following injuries: contusions of both wrists, laceration of the left wrist, bruising in the region of the thorax and ribs, bruising of the face, right knee and thigh, and a sprain of the left shoulder. Several days after lodging a complaint with the Bremen police and prosecuting authorities, Abdul A. was informed that he was under investigation for threatening and insulting officers and for resisting them during the performance of their duty.

In February the retrial took place of the three police officers accused of assaulting Habib J. in 1992 (see Amnesty International Reports 1994 to 1997). The officers had been found guilty in 1994, but their convictions had been overturned on appeal in 1995. In July 1996 the Berlin Higher Regional Court had ordered a retrial of the three officers, arguing that the appeal court's findings had been "contradictory and full of holes". In its decision in February, the Court concluded that, although Habib J.'s credibility as a witness was not in doubt, the length of time that had elapsed since the incident had led to lapses of memory on his part and on the part of the other witnesses and the accused officers, and to contradictions in the evidence presented by all the parties. The Court was unable to establish which version of events was correct and therefore upheld the officers' appeal against their original conviction.

In June an appeal by Algerian asylum-seeker Nasr B. for a judicial review of the prosecuting authorities' decision to reject his complaint of ill-treatment (see Amnesty International Report 1998) was rejected by the Supreme Court.

In May Dortmund Regional Court overturned the conviction of a police officer for assaulting Ahmet Delibas, a Turkish national (see Amnesty International Reports 1997 and 1998). Ahmet Delibas alleged that police officers had repeatedly punched him in the face in the back of a police car in 1995; medical evidence showed that he had suffered serious injuries to his face. He was subsequently accused of having assaulted one of the officers. In May 1997 one officer was found guilty of negligent assault; a second officer and Ahmet Delibas himself were acquitted. In overturning the lower court's decision, Dortmund Regional Court ruled that the injuries to Ahmet Delibas' face could have occurred when the officer struck him in self-defence after Ahmet Delibas had kicked him in the face at the time of the arrest. Although the officer was found to have hit Ahmet Delibas at least three more times in the upper body and head while the detainee's hands were cuffed behind his back in the police car, the Court ruled that the force which the officer used in order to break the detainee's resistance was justified. Ahmet Delibas was given a six-month suspended sentence for causing the officer serious bodily harm.

In May the authorities rejected Homayoun Ghaleh's complaint of ill-treatment by the police, despite medical evidence substantiating his claim that a Dortmund police officer had hit him on the head with a service radio. An investigation into the complaint filed by the officer involved against Homayoun Ghaleh was discontinued in May (see Amnesty International Report 1998).

In May, three Brandenburg police officers were convicted on 12 separate counts of ill-treating Vietnamese detainees in their custody in 1993 and 1994 (see Amnesty International Reports 1995 and 1998). The officers received prison sentences of 10 to 24 months, suspended for three years. According to the findings of Frankfurt an der Oder Regional Court, the officers had punched and kicked detainees and subjected them to humiliating and degrading treatment – in some cases by forcing them to undress before assaulting them. A fourth officer was found guilty of failing to intervene and was fined. In pronouncing judgment, the chairman of Frankfurt an der Oder Regional Court criticized police witnesses for lying in order to protect their colleagues. At least two Vietnamese witnesses had been deported to Vietnam before the trial started. Attempts to bring them back to testify were abandoned after the Federal Ministry of the Interior expressed concern that the two men might use their return to claim asylum.

In September the Federal High Court overturned the 1996 conviction of two police officers for physically coercing and negligently causing actual bodily harm to journalist Oliver Ness while he was reporting on a demonstration in May 1994 (see Amnesty International Reports 1995 to 1997). In delivering its decision, the Federal High Court drew attention to the "enormous" delay on the part of the Public Prosecutor's Office, as a result of which the case was not brought to the High Court for two years.

Amnesty International expressed concern to the authorities about allegations of ill-treatment, urging that they be promptly and impartially investigated. The organization also expressed concern about investigations into allegations of ill-treatment in previous years.

In April Amnesty International urged the Berlin authorities to reopen the investigation into Nasr B.'s allegations and to ensure that the prosecuting authorities investigated the case thoroughly, in conformity with international standards.

In May Amnesty International reminded the government of its responsibility for ensuring that deportations of asylum-seekers were carried out in a manner which respected the human rights of the individual being deported. These include the right not to be tortured or ill-treated. Amnesty International called for prompt and impartial investigations into the actions of the officers involved in the deportation attempts that it had documented, and for a full, impartial and independent inquiry into the role and accountability of the Federal Border Police at Düsseldorf Airport. In August the Federal Ministry of the Interior informed Amnesty International that the matter was currently the subject of investigation by a public prosecutor, but that to date there were no indications of ill-treatment by the Federal Border Police.

In December Amnesty International wrote to the authorities seeking further information about aspects of the case of the two police officers whose convictions in the case of Oliver Ness had been overturned.

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