German government takes action against right-wing extremism and hate crimes

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Cabinet adopts package of measures German government takes action against right-wing extremism and hate crimes

There is no place in Germany for hatred, right-wing extremism, anti-Semitism and any other form of group-related enmity against people. The German government is absolutely determined to defend Germany’s liberal democracy against these phenomena. To this end, the Cabinet has adopted an extensive package of measures.

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A close-up of a hate-filled Facebook post

Taking action against online hate crimes: In future online platform operators will have to report content covered by criminal law to a central agency. 

Photo: imago images / photothek

The package of measures is based on a joint draft produced by the Federal Ministry of the Interior and the Federal Ministry of Justice. The Cabinet will now swiftly take steps to implement the measures.

Obligation to report online hate crimes

In future online platform providers will be required to report all posts relevant to criminal law, including death threats or seditious content, to a central agency. A special unit is to be set up for this purpose within the Federal Criminal Police Office. Providers are also to be required to report the IP addresses of individuals posting content of this sort. The obligation to report is laid out in the Network Enforcement Act (Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz).

Harassment and insults are a criminal offence – online and offline

Today it is already a criminal offence to instigate someone to commit specific crimes, as is sedition. The package of measures now provides for an extension of the actions that are punishable, to cover the particular forms found on the internet. This is intended to strengthen the hand of law enforcement agencies to address online hate crime. In this context for instance, adjustments are to be made to the crime of insult. 

Better protection for local politicians

Criminal law affords special protection to politicians. This protection is now to be extended to politicians acting in a voluntary capacity at local level. The crime of defamation of individuals in political life is to be amended accordingly. Defamation is always understood to mean spreading untrue statements that are likely to demean another individual. A simple expression of opinion is not deemed to be defamation. To simplify things, defamation is rather a combination of an assertion of untrue facts and insults.

Stricter arms control

Before the relevant authorities issue a firearms license, they will in future have to check with the intelligence services, to ascertain whether any information about the individual is available that would preclude issuing a license. This is to ensure the members of unconstitutional associations are no longer able to acquire weapons. Extremists who are already in possession of a weapon can also be required to surrender the weapon on the basis of intelligence service information.

Better protection for doctors and ambulance staff

Everyone who works in emergency medical services or in accident and emergency serves our society in a very important way. Yet ambulance crews and other services are also exposed to violence. To afford them better protection, the criminal code is to be modified. Today, there are already regulations to provide special protection for enforcement officers, fire-fighters, disaster relief helpers and rescue services. This protection is now to be extended to cover medical personnel.

Ongoing prevention work

In addition to law enforcement, the German government is focusing on prevention as a way of addressing right-wing extremism, anti-Semitism, racism and inhumanity. In July 2016 the "Strategy to prevent extremism and foster democracy" was presented. The aim is to foster and strengthen those who work actively at local level for democracy and who stand against extremism of any sort. This preventive work is to be continued and expanded.