Covering events from January - December 2002
FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF GERMANY
Head of state: Johannes Rau
Head of government: Gerhard Schröder
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
International Criminal Court: ratified
There were allegations that police officers had ill-treated and used excessive force against detainees; one man allegedly died as a result. It was still not known whether criminal proceedings would ensue in relation to the death in 1999 of the Sudanese asylum-seeker, Aamir Ageeb. Chechens were in danger of being forcibly returned to Russia, where they faced human rights violations on the basis of their ethnicity. No criminal or disciplinary proceedings were taken against public officials who forcibly administered an emetic substance to a man, resulting in his death.
Death in police custody
Charges of physical assault resulting in death were brought against police officers alleged to have beaten 31-year-old Stefan Neisius at Cologne's First Police Inspectorate on 11 May, following his arrest after a domestic argument earlier the same evening. Stefan Neisius collapsed and was taken from the police station to hospital, where he spent 13 days in a coma on a life-support system until his death on 24 May. The incident of alleged brutality came to light when two police officers at the police station informed a superior officer that on the night of Stefan Neisius' arrest they had witnessed five or six colleagues surrounding him, as he lay handcuffed on the floor of the police station, repeatedly kicking him in the head, body, arms and legs. Three or four police officers were then alleged to have grabbed hold of his legs and dragged him down a corridor into a cell, where they allegedly continued to hit and kick him as he lay on the floor of the cell. Six police officers were suspended from service, shortly after the allegations emerged. The investigation was ongoing at the end of the year and no trial date had been set.
Allegations of police ill-treatment
Reports that police ill-treated detainees and used excessive force continued to be received. Complainants alleged that they were kicked, punched and sometimes verbally abused. In certain instances the alleged victims sustained serious injuries.
- An investigation was opened into the alleged ill-treatment of 44-year-old Svetlana Lauer at her home in Bamberg, Bavaria, on 20 February. An altercation arose between Svetlana Lauer and four police officers, after she refused them permission to search her home. During the incident a police officer allegedly grabbed her by the hair, repeatedly hit her head against apartment walls and doors and painfully twisted her handcuffed hands. The same police officer also reportedly verbally abused Svetlana Lauer. The incident reportedly took place in front of Svetlana Lauer's eight-year-old twin daughters. A second police officer also allegedly ill-treated Svetlana Lauer after she had scratched him in the face. He allegedly handcuffed her, dragged her through the apartment by her handcuffed hands, kicked her and banged her head on the floor. He was said to have then placed his foot on her back and continued to hit her as she lay on the floor. Svetlana Lauer sustained multiple bruising and grazing.
- By the end of the year the investigation had not been concluded into the alleged police ill-treatment of Doviodo Adekou in Mettmann, North Rhine-Westphalia, on 1 October 2001. The 59-year-old Togolese asylum-seeker alleged that a police officer deliberately punched him in the right eye causing it to rupture, while forcibly detaining him in order to place him in pre-deportation detention. The authorities denied Doviodo Adekou's version of events, stating that a police officer inadvertently struck the detainee in the eye after being bitten. Doviodo Adekou, who had undergone a cataract operation on his right eye shortly before the incident, spent eight days in hospital and is now blind in his right eye.
- In mid-December the trial began of two police officers accused of ill-treating a then 41-year-old man of Turkish origin in Berlin in May 2000. The man alleged that after he was handcuffed, one police officer grabbed hold of his neck and violently threw him to the ground, causing him to hit his face on the ground after which two police officers kicked him as he lay on the ground. The man suffered a deep gash to his nose and lower forehead, which required an operation, and multiple bruising to his arms and neck. On 23 December Tiergarten District Court found one police officer guilty of "physical assault in office"; he was given a seven-month suspended prison sentence.
In July, a 46-year-old man held in Lingen Prison was allegedly punched in the face by a prison official for conducting a telephone conversation with his children in his native Albanian and not German, as reportedly stipulated by prison rules. The prisoner, who is HIV positive, was confined to the prison hospital ward at the time. An investigation was initiated by the Osnabrück Public Prosecutor's Office, but the findings were not known at the end of the year.
Death during deportation
At the end of the year AI had received no response from Frankfurt-am-Main Public Prosecutor's Office to its requests for information concerning the investigation into the death of Aamir Ageeb. The 30-year-old Sudanese asylum-seeker died in late May 1999 during his forced deportation from Frankfurt-am-Main airport to Khartoum via Cairo, Egypt.
Several Chechens were forcibly returned to Russia, where it was believed they would be at serious risk of torture and ill-treatment on the basis of their ethnicity. However, in November the Federal German government urged the regional Länder governments to consider a temporary halt to forced deportations of Chechens from Germany. The decision was reportedly made in the light of intensified security operations against Chechens in Russia following the Melnikov Street theatre hostage-taking in Moscow in late October.
- In May, 20-year-old Rustam Alimkhanov, a Chechen whose asylum application had been dismissed by the Berlin authorities as manifestly unfounded, was threatened with forcible return to Russia. Following numerous appeals on his behalf, Rustam Alimkhanov was given six months' leave to remain in Germany, where he remained at the end of the year, albeit on a temporary basis.
In late June Hamburg Public Prosecutor's Office concluded its investigation into the death of the 19-year-old Cameroonian asylum-seeker Achidi John in late 2001. Achidi John died at Hamburg's Eppendorf University Hospital on 12 December 2001 after four police officers and a doctor forcibly administered an emetic substance against his will in order to secure as evidence against him narcotics, which he was suspected of having swallowed. The cause of death was reported to be brain death due to a lack of oxygen, which was attributed to a serious heart condition. No criminal charges were brought against the public officials involved, as the emetic was said to have been administered in accordance with the relevant article of the Criminal Code. The practice of forcibly administering emetics for the non-medical purpose of gathering information on the possession of drugs was introduced in Hamburg in mid-2001. The overwhelming majority of people subjected to the forced procedure have been black Africans.
AI country visits
An AI delegation visited Germany in September and met victims of alleged police ill-treatment.
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