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Court lifts ban on domestic military ops

Published: 17 Aug 2012 11:24 GMT+02:00
Updated: 17 Aug 2012 17:53 GMT+02:00

The strict ban on German military operations within the country was adopted following World War II, in reaction to the Nazi regime having used the army and paramilitary forces for its domestic agenda.

On Friday, the Federal Constitutional Court said the Bundeswehr armed forces could deploy under strict conditions in case of an assault in Germany with the potential for scores of casualties.

The deployment of troops in Germany was only acceptable in "states of emergency of catastrophic proportions," the judges ruled, but never "in reaction to the threat posed by demonstrating crowds".

The use of combat weapons was only acceptable "as a last resort" and must be approved by the federal government, not simply delegated to the defence minister.

Shooting down a hijacked passenger plane with civilians on board remained illegal after the ruling - but fighter jets could attempt to force such an aircraft to land with warning shots.

The ruling marked a reversal of a decision by the same court in 2006 and was a response to complaints from two of Germany's 16 federal states.

The German government had attempted to allow more flexibility in its military response to a possible terror attack in the wake of the September 11, 2001 suicide hijackings in the United States.

But it ran into resistance from the court, which cited strict restrictions on the deployment of the military in Germany set down in the post-war constitution.

Fears also ran deep that the armed forces could be used as an instrument of political power.

The decision effectively broadens Article 35 of the constitution which only permits a domestic military deployment in case of a natural disaster or a particularly serious accident.

Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziere and Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich welcomed the decision in a joint statement.

"Ensuring the security of our citizens, particularly in extreme cases, is one of the most important duties of our state," they said.

The ruling "fills a legal void", added defence affairs expert Ernst-Reinhard Beck of the ruling conservative Christian Union parties' parliamentary group.

However Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberg stressed the importance of the "separation between internal and external security" and noted that "not everything that is constitutionally possible is politically right".

The opposition Social Democrats welcomed the "last resort" restrictions imposed by the court, home affairs expert Michael Hartmann said.

But the far-left party Linke warned that the decision "opens the door to a further militarisation of home affairs and hollows out democratic rights".

In a dissenting opinion, Judge Reinhard Gaier said the court had gone beyond its powers, and that the government should seek an amendment to the constitution if it aimed to deploy the military on German soil.

AFP/The Local/hc

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

12:16 August 17, 2012 by elboertjie
Following the USA's lead: using the military to combat its own citizens and to trample even more on people's liberties.

One small step at a time, the complete tyranny is approaching.
13:00 August 17, 2012 by pepsionice
You could go and waste another ten billion Euro a year on a separate domestic unit if you wanted to....or just use the standing military. You already use them for flood relief (remember, they filled sandbags by the millions when tasked). I don't see a big deal.....it's not like you have the leadership of the Chinese Army running running the German military.
13:10 August 17, 2012 by Berlin fuer alles
Agreed elboertjie. Our world leadership are finding ways to restrict freedoms of it's citizens and all in the name of this unknown terror that cannot be seen or ever defreated. A beautiful scenario for eroding freedoms whenever the need or want arises. Having read the rise and fall of the third reich I can liken this to another scenario that happened in the first half of the last century.
14:22 August 17, 2012 by nemo999
27/2/1933 22:15 hrs followed by the search for the usual suspects and the issuance of the new rules (AKA the new Reichstag Fire Decree), and we will be off to the races.
14:57 August 17, 2012 by tdog1964
Sometimes we need to give up a little freedoms so we can have a freeer more secure society.
15:06 August 17, 2012 by iseedaftpeople
this indeed opens the floodgates to an accelerated rollback on civil liberties.

How fearful must Germany's political elite be of their own people, if they see the need to press for the use of military force against them.

It would be harrowingly naive to think that this decision will have no consequences and is merely a technicality. Remember how following the Bundesverfassungsgericht's ban on indiscriminate data retention, politicians of all parties never ceased to stress the importance of reintroducing it; and often enough, they touted it precisely as a remedy for petty crimes that fell outside the intentionally narrow scope of what the court saw as reconcilable with Germany's constitution.

And the same is going to happen with domestic military operations - directly ignoring even the scope this appallingly lenient decision by the Bundesverfassungsgericht, "law and order" politicians from all parties will call for routine deployment of troops for crowd control at ordinary political rallies, perhaps even plain old football riots. And you can bet your behind that the next time there is going to be a Castor container delivery of radioactive waste to the Wendland, demonstrators will be up against the Bundeswehr.

What we are witnessing here is the early stages of neo-conservativism (which Angela Merkel and the German political elite have adopted from the U.S. hook line and sinker) turning into neo-fascism. Mark my words, and remember them when you start seeing tanks and troops wielding machine guns at political rallies.
17:09 August 17, 2012 by Major B
@ elboertjie,

U.S. domestic law does not allow its active military to intervene in domestic affairs. We do have a national guard that is authorized to in civil defense only if an emergency is declared. Hurricane Katrina and in riots in the past are situations in which our state governors have relied on their guard forces. But, the Americans are traditionally and historically a non-militaristic nation and would never have tolerated what took place in Germany during the 1930's.

But otherwise, we are blessed to have a large peaceful country, despite our political differences, in which one can travel for thousands of miles under the same set of laws.

Of course many German citizens know this and thousands travel to the USA each year and enjoy the vast variety of activities our great and rich land offers.
17:33 August 17, 2012 by frankiep
"But, the Americans are traditionally and historically a non-militaristic nation and would never have tolerated what took place in Germany during the 1930's."

I'm sorry, but you cannot be serious.

The US has existed since 1776 and has fought in the following wars:

War of Independence

War of 1812

Barbary War

Mexican-American War

Civil War

Spanish-American War

World War I

World War II

Korean War

Vietnam War

Gulf War

Afghanistan

Iraq War

These are just the "major" military conflicts the US has been involved in.

Not to mention the countless wars against Native American tribes and military incursions in Panama, Grenada, and the Phillipines - amongst many others. All in a span of just under 240 years.

Barring all of that, I don't know how anyone can say that a country which spends more on it's military than the next 26 countries in the world COMBINED is not militaristic.
00:33 August 18, 2012 by Leo Strauss
As the Flecktarn turns to Eichentarn...

Wie schön ist Deutschland im Herbst. ;)
21:32 August 18, 2012 by DickShawnsDiction
"Barring all of that, I don't know how anyone can say that a country which spends more on it's military than the next 26 countries in the world COMBINED is not militaristic."

Easy: brainwashing. Topnotch brainwashing. The only thing the US is good at any more.

But back to the dismal topic at hand: I miss "Old Europe". Come back, Gerhard! All is forgiven...!
14:23 August 19, 2012 by A pen
Poster #1 nailed it. The rest of you complaining about the US better educate yourselves before spouting off. It takes two sides to start a war. Pick one. That's right, if you believed your militaristic rants you'd be living under a totalitarian government like N Korea and be happy. Read the Federalist Papers some time. You'll find the price of liberty is suffering the cycle of tyrants and patriots as education for the next generation. That the unchangeable laws of nature prevent man from being stripped of his right to use any means to put tyranny back in a book is the key. Samuel Adams had it right, education and virtue prevent subjugation.
17:10 August 21, 2012 by Major B
@ frankiep

I stand by my comment that Americans(the American People) are non-militaristic. Before you go off citing history again, just know from my heritage, I know very well what American governments, led by big business, have done in the past. I say this with the full knowledge of our constitution's guarantee of gun ownership and self-protection.

And I know very well some of the sorry episodes of native suppression and slavery. I didn't say Americans were aggressive.

But don't start anything. Why would you count the War of Independence and the War of 1812 in the above list? So the Americans went over and burned London in 1812? Right. Why would you count the Civil War? That was internal as well. Americans tried hard to stay out of the two world wars you listed. While I believe England and France were equally responsible for the first world war....... I won't complete the sentence.

And the Korean War(Cold War) and Vietnam(Cold War) were a consequence of the the second world war.

Just think, had that little man from Austria been suppressed by his own countrymen in 1933, people like you wouldn't have to continually complain about U.S. military dominance all these years.
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