Detentions had ‘chilling effect’ on G8 protests

Two German anti-globalisation protesters detained for five days in 2007 to prevent them from demonstrating against a G8 summit won a victory at the European Court of Human Rights on Thursday.

Detentions had 'chilling effect' on G8 protests
Photo: DPA

The judges ruled that Germany had violated the rights to liberty and free assembly of the two activists, who were aged 22 at the time.

The two, identified as Sven Schwabe and M.G., were arrested in the northeastern city of Rostock on June 3, 2007, three days before the start of the summit of the world’s most industrialized nations, and held until the day after the meeting closed.

They were among tens of thousands who had travelled to the region to demonstrate against the summit in the nearby Baltic Sea resort of Heiligendamm, where world leaders met behind a tight security cordon.

The two claimants were detained during a police identity check in a parking lot outside a prison, next to a van in which officers found banners, one of them proclaiming “Freedom for all prisoners”.

The applicants have argued the slogan called on police to end the arrests of demonstrators, but a local court ordered their continued detention until June 9, suspecting they wanted to incite others to free the prisoners by force.

The protesters challenged the decision twice, to no avail.

The Strasbourg court found that the period of their detention – five and a half days – was “a considerable time” and said it was “not convinced” that their continuing detention could have reasonably been seen as necessary.

It also said that, if police had wanted to prevent them from inciting others to free the prisoners, it would have been sufficient to seize the banners.

The court found that the applicants, by planning to take part in the anti-G8 demonstrations, “had intended to participate in a debate on matters of public interest, namely the effects of globalisation on peoples lives.”

“By displaying the slogans on their banners, they had aimed to criticize the security measures taken by the police, in particular the high number of detentions,” the court said.

“Depriving them of their liberty for several days for trying to display the impugned banners had had a chilling effect on the expression of such an opinion and restricted public debate on that issue,” the judges found.

The court ruled that Germany had violated their rights to liberty and freedom of association and awarded each applicant €3,000 in damages plus costs and expenses.


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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.