Federal Republic of Germany
Head of state: Johannes Rau (replaced Roman Herzog in May)
Head of government: Gerhard Schröder
Population: 82.1 million
Official language: German
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
There were reports of ill-treatment by police officers. Most involved foreign nationals and were frequently connected with forced deportations. The authorities attempted to deport people who were at risk of human rights violations in their countries of origin. One person died during a forced deportation and one man was reportedly shot dead by police.
Death during forced deportation
There was concern that the actions of federal border police officers may have contributed to the death of a Sudanese deportee in May by using restraint techniques which impeded breathing. Aamir Ageeb, a 30-year-old Sudanese national, died during his forced deportation from Frankfurt airport to Khartoum via Cairo, Egypt. Federal border police officers reportedly bound Aamir Ageeb's arms and legs and placed a helmet over his head before departure when he resisted deportation. Once on board the airplane, the officers allegedly forced his head between his knees and kept him in this position during take-off. After take-off, Aamir Ageeb stopped struggling and was pushed upright by the officers, who then noticed that he had stopped breathing. The death led to a debate among various professional groups, including doctors and pilots, about their participation in forced deportations. In August the government clarified who had ultimate authority during deportations by announcing that federal border police officers are subordinate to the captain of the airplane during deportations once the airplane doors are shut.
In 1999 more than 95,000 people reportedly sought political asylum in Germany. Increasing pressures on national and local administrative structures led to renewed scrutiny of the future of the right to asylum. However, both domestic and international organizations criticized the authorities for deporting individuals who were not medically fit to travel or who had been living in Germany for a long time and for seeking to deport people who were at risk of human rights abuses in their countries of origin.
- Fathelrahman Abdallah, a Sudanese national detained in Nuremberg, was repeatedly threatened with deportation to Sudan. He had been an active member of the Democratic Union Party of Sudan and was therefore in serious danger of imprisonment or torture if he were deported. At the end of the year he had been granted leave to remain in Germany, but only until February 2000.
There were reports that the authorities used special chartered flights to deport larger numbers of asylum-seekers. In September the German and Austrian authorities announced that they would consider jointly using such arrangements to deport rejected asylum-seekers to common destinations. There were allegations that deportees were subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by federal border police officers during special flight deportations.
- In March, 15 asylum-seekers were reportedly placed on a special flight at Düsseldorf airport destined for Conakry in Guinea. They were reportedly accompanied by 41 federal border police officers. When they arrived in Conakry, the Guinean authorities refused to recognize the asylum-seekers' travel documents and the chartered airplane was forced to return to Germany with all 15 detainees on board. It was alleged that federal border police officers physically and verbally abused the detainees during the journey. There was particular concern at reports that prior to departure one deportee had a helmet placed over his head and was forced to sit with his head between his knees for 20 minutes during take-off.
There were allegations of ill-treatment by police. The majority of complaints involved foreign nationals, particularly members of ethnic minorities and asylum-seekers. Most alleged that they were repeatedly kicked, punched and beaten with truncheons. In some instances police officers allegedly used derogatory and racist language.
- Ibrahim Kourouma, a Guinean national, alleged that he was ill-treated by federal border police officers at Schönefeld airport in Berlin on 7 April after he refused to board an airplane. He stated that he was placed in a room furnished with a table approximately one-metre wide and laid on his back across the table with his hands and feet fastened with handcuffs to the table. Ibrahim Kourouma's lower back rested on the edge of the table causing him pain. He was left in this position for around three hours. One officer put a wet T-shirt over his face, causing him breathing difficulties. A doctor who treated him in Berlin on 10 April stated that Ibrahim Kourouma had a number of injuries which were consistent with the events he described.
Places of detention
There were allegations that asylum-seekers were ill-treated by officials in various places of detention. There were also complaints about the physical conditions in which they were detained. In May the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment published the findings of its 1998 visit to various detention centres belonging to Frankfurt am Main airport in which asylum-seekers were held. The Committee made a number of recommendations to improve the physical aspects of the detention centres at the airport. In its report to the German government the Committee requested information about the outcomes of a number of investigations into allegations of police ill-treatment which the Committee had received in 1997 and in the first half of 1998. In its response to the Committee, the government stated that either final decisions in the investigations were still pending or insufficient evidence had resulted in the termination of the investigations.
A tourist from Cologne was shot dead by police officers in June. There were fears that his death may have resulted from police negligence. The 62-year-old hill walker was shot dead through the door of his hotel room in Heldrungen in Thuringia state by a group of four plainclothes police officers from Nordhausen. The police had reportedly received a call from a hotel employee claiming that a wanted murderer was staying in the hotel. Although the officers were supposed to establish the identity of the man, it was alleged that none of them knew what he looked like and that after knocking on the hotel door two shots were fired through the door. At the end of the year two police officers were suspended from duty and an investigation into the death was under way.
AI country reports
- Concerns in Europe, January June 1999: Germany (AI Index: EUR 01/002/99)
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