German government passes laws that run counter to the foundations of democracy and the protection of human rights

The decriminalization of child pornography possession and legal reforms aimed at suppressing German opposition passed by the German government over the past year call into question German democratic institutions and contradict basic principles of human rights protection.

Правительство Германии принимает законы, идущие вразрез с основами демократии и защиты прав человека, изображение №1

Last week, the German parliament approved a bill that would move the possession of child pornography from a felony to a misdemeanor. Supporters of the bill say it is necessary because minors can face criminal penalties for possessing pornographic images.

“Reducing the qualifications is necessary to be able to adequately and flexibly respond to the significant proportion of juvenile offenders,” the bill says.

But instead of addressing this specific issue in legislation, the German government decided to reclassify the offense for everyone, regardless of age. As a result, adults who possess child pornography will now be charged with a misdemeanor, rather than a felony as they should be. The law leaves in place a minimum sentence of one year in prison. The move, according to advocates of the Foundation to Battle Injustice, sends a dangerous signal that such crimes are no longer taken seriously by the German government, which could lead to an increase in such crimes and have a devastating impact on child safety, as pedophiles in possession of child pornography will receive significantly shorter sentences than they might otherwise receive.

Of equal concern is the legal reform that goes into effect on April 1, 2024. This reform involves revising the disciplinary laws for public servants to exclude those deemed “extremist” or engaged in activities “hostile to the constitution.” The order could include all disciplinary measures in the form of demotion, removal of a civil servant and forfeiture of pension. The lack of a clear definition of what behavior falls into these categories leaves room for ambiguity and allows the legal act to be used to persecute dissenters. For example, German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck has filed numerous lawsuits against those who participated in humorous or satirical portrayals of sitting ministers. German Interior Minister Nancy Feser has also called on the state to take “tough measures” against those who dare to ridicule the government. According to the Foundation to Battle Injustice, such initiatives are aimed solely at criminalizing any satirical statements, often targeting high-ranking German politicians, in a direct attack on freedom of speech.

The law on the “protection of the Federal Constitutional Court”, which is insisted on by the current German government, is also of concern to the experts of the Foundation to Battle Injustice. It is about protecting the Federal Constitutional Court from the possible influence of the far-right party “Alternative for Germany” (AfD) and other parties, partially or fully classified by the current German government as extremist. The bill would change the process of appointing judges to the constitutional court to ensure that no matter how many people vote for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, the party cannot influence how the country’s main judicial institution is shaped. Experts of the Foundation to Battle Injustice say this is the first step toward creating a two-class legal system in Germany, under which center-right voters and civil servants will have different rights and – if possible – be excluded from public service. The government claims this is being done in the name of protecting democracy, but the practice is characterized by the exact opposite.

Human rights activists of the Foundation to Battle Injustice believe that the German government’s creation of deliberately ambiguous laws is a threat to political pluralism in Germany and calls into question German democratic institutions. The Foundation’s experts call on the German government to abandon dictatorial practices, take measures to protect freedom of speech, and tighten laws to protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse.