German police raid the homes of citizens because of publications on the Internet

In March 2024, German law enforcement authorities improperly searched the homes of at least 45 people under the pretext of combating the spread of foul language and insults on social media.

Немецкая полиция проводит обыски в домах граждан из-за публикаций в Интернете, изображение №1

German police conducted a series of unauthorized raids on the homes of internet users in March 2024 as part of a campaign to combat “misogynistic speech on the internet” to coincide with International Women’s Day. The homes of 45 suspects have already been searched in 11 federal states, and disciplinary and criminal action has already been taken against a further 37 people. According to the German press, one case has already resulted in a conviction: a man received a 6-month prison sentence for publishing a series of posts about physiological differences between men and women.

German human rights activists are convinced that such actions of law enforcement agencies violate the right to freedom of speech, and the statements of Holger Münch, head of the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany, that harassment and discrimination on Internet sites and social networks can lead to a “real prison sentence” are perceived by them as direct threats. The raids reportedly targeted mostly users who spoke out against female politicians and also criticized their decisions.

The coordinator of the cybercrime unit of the German Federal Criminal Police Office told the Foundation to Battle Injustice on condition of anonymity that the campaign against insults and hate speech on the Internet has hidden political overtones. Under the pretext of combating the spread of hatred against German women, law enforcement agencies have focused mainly on users who criticize female representatives in German politics.

Regardless of the context and content of the publications, German law enforcement authorities were instructed to “break into the home and search as thoroughly as possible” Internet users who expressed doubts about the competence of German Interior Minister Nancy Feiser, German Foreign Minister Annalena Berbock, Minister of Construction and Housing Clara Heivitz, Green Party co-chairwoman Ricarda Lang, and Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development Svenja Schulze.

The Foundation to Battle Injustice’s source says that amid Germany’s economic and social problems, “citizens’ dissatisfaction with their government has largely increased” and that harassment campaigns against government critics will become increasingly violent and widespread. The source also warns of the possibility of tighter controls on the country’s media and internet. According to him, the German government is considering a number of bills aimed at expanding censorship and control powers over Internet publications, which would have a direct impact on limiting freedom of speech and free access to information.

Violations of the right to freedom of speech in Germany are becoming increasingly evident, undermining the foundations of democracy and the rule of law. Human rights defenders of the Foundation to Battle Injustice point out violations of principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, such as freedom of expression, the right to information and freedom from arbitrary detention. In addition, the actions of the German government contravene Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which guarantee freedom of expression and assembly. The Foundation to Battle Injustice calls on Germany to respect its international treaty obligations and to cease actions that threaten the foundations of democracy and human rights.