EU court slams German penal system

The European Court of Human Rights this week condemned Germany's preventive detention system, which holds prisoners considered dangerous in jail for an indefinite period.

EU court slams German penal system
Photo: DPA

In December, the ECHR had ordered Germany to pay €50,000 in damages to a prisoner held in preventive detention for nearly 20 years, but the ECHR rejected Germany’s referral request lodged in March.

“The Court’s Chamber judgment of 17 December 2009 has thereby become final,” an ECHR statement said on Tuesday.

The original case concerned a 52-year-old prisoner, known as M, with at least seven convictions for offences including attempted murder, robbery, aggravated robbery, serious assaults and blackmail.

He has also wounded several fellow detainees, in particular a disabled man, and tried to rob and murder a woman accompanying him on a day trip out of his psychiatric hospital.

Experts had judged that he had psychological problems but was still morally responsible for his actions.

Under German law at the time of his conviction, preventive detention was limited to 10 years, which would have meant he was released in 2001.

But an amendment passed in 1998 allowed the detention to be extended indefinitely if it was judged necessary for public safety, and this was applied retroactively to M.

The Strasbourg court ruled that the retroactive detention of the prisoner was not justified, because “there was no sufficient causal connection between his conviction and his continued deprivation of liberty.”

“The applicant’s continued detention had not been justified by the risk that he could commit further serious offences if released,” the court said, judging that “these potential offences were not sufficiently concrete and specific.”

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Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

The German government says it is in talks over further compensation for victims of the attack on the Munich Olympics, as the 50th anniversary of the atrocity approaches.

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

Ahead of the commemoration in September, relatives of the Israelis killed have indicated they are unhappy with what Germany is offering.

“Conversations based on trust are taking place with representatives of the victims’ families,” a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP when asked about the negotiations.

He did not specify who would benefit or how much money had been earmarked, saying only that any package would “again” be financed by the federal government, the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich.

On September 5th, 1972, eight gunmen broke into the Israeli team’s flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage, threatening to kill them unless 232 Palestinian prisoners were released.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists  held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Horst Ossingert

The spokeswoman for the victims’ families, Ankie Spitzer, told the German media group RND that the amount currently on the table was “insulting” and threatened a boycott of this year’s commemorations.

She said Berlin was offering a total of €10 million including around €4.5 million already provided in compensation between 1972 and 2002 — an amount she said did not correspond to international standards. 

“We are angry and disappointed,” said Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer who was killed in the attack. “We never wanted to talk publicly about money but now we are forced to.”

RND reported that the German and Israeli governments would like to see an accord by August 15th.

The interior ministry spokesman said that beyond compensation, Germany intended to use the anniversary for fresh “historical appraisal, remembrance and recognition”.

He said this would include the formation of a commission of German and Israeli historians to “comprehensively” establish what happened “from the perspective of the year 2022”.

This would lead to “an offer of further acts of acknowledgement of the relatives of the victims of the attack” and the “grave consequences” they suffered.