SHARE
COPY LINK

CRIME

Germany toughens rape law after NYE assaults

The German parliament unanimously voted to pass a new law Thursday that broadens the definition of sex crimes and making it easier to deport foreign nationals who commit them.

Germany toughens rape law after NYE assaults
Cologne's central train station where thousands of women reported being assaulted and robbed last New Year's Eve. Photo: dpa

After years of debate on the need for tougher treatment of rape by the criminal justice system, the new legislation finally came together following a rash of sexual assaults in crowds on New Year's Eve in the western city of Cologne.

Dubbed the “No means No” law by the media, it explicitly covers cases in which a victim withheld consent but did not physically fight back.

The legislation, entitled “improving the protection of sexual self-determination”, also lowers the bar for deporting sexual offenders, classifies groping as a sex crime and targets assaults committed by large groups.

“It is crucial that we finally embed the principle 'No means No' in criminal law and make every non-consensual sexual act a punishable offence,” said deputy Eva Högl of the Social Democrats, one of the law's sponsors.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet signed off on the measure in March after the attacks in Cologne, where more than 1,000 women reported sexual assaults and robberies on New Year's Eve.

The attacks were blamed largely on Arab and North African men.

The city's police chief conceded that most culprits may never be caught over the spate of assaults, which ranged from groping to rape as well as inflamed public debate about a record influx of refugees and migrants.

Justice Minister Heiko Maas acknowledged that under German law there were “unacceptable gaps in protection” against sexual coercion and assault.

Currently, victims reporting a rape to police must not only demonstrate that they verbally declined sex but also that they physically resisted their assailant.

The new law is intended to cover “the actual situations in which most attacks occur”, Maas said. 

These include cases in which the victim is taken by surprise, intimidated or threatened with other violence, for example in an abusive relationship.

Parliament had already in January made it easier to expel migrants and refugees convicted of crimes.

But along with sexual offences, it required proof of additional “violence, threats or physical endangerment” and generally a prison sentence of at least one year before an attacker could be deported.

The reform means any sexual assault can be used against an applicant in an immigration or asylum hearing.

It also specifically upgrades groping to a sex crime with sentences of up to two years' jail or a fine.

Merkel's conservative parliamentary group included a stipulation making it illegal to be part of a group committing assaults in a crowd, rather than requiring proof that a specific person attacked a victim.

Anyone “who at least tacitly accepts that crimes are committed by a group they are a part of” can now be prosecuted. 

News agency DPA cited figures that 8,000 rapes are reported in Germany each year but that only one in 10 victims files charges. Moreover, only one in 10 rape complaints leads to a conviction.

The latest reform drive began in 2011 with the passage of a Council of Europe convention on preventing and combating violence against women, requiring signatories including Germany to penalise all “non-consensual” sexual acts.

GERMANY AND ISRAEL

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.

SHOW COMMENTS