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UN expert sees ‘systemic failures’ in Germany’s handling of police violence

UN human rights expert, Nils Melzer, claims that the German authorities are systematically failing to record and punish police violence.

Police officers guard several demonstrations on Domplatz square in the Berlin.
Police officers guard several demonstrations on Domplatz square in the Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Peter Gercke

The outgoing UN Special Reporter on Torture, Nils Melzer, has criticised Germany’s handling of the issue of police violence.

In his former role at the UN, Melzer was in charge of monitoring compliance with the ban on ill-treatment and torture in UN member states.

Last year, he received hundreds of reports about violent incidents involving German police officers during demonstrations against the Covid measures in Berlin.

READ ALSO: German police under fire for using tracing app to find witnesses

After watching several videos that appeared to show police brutality against the Berlin demonstrations, Melzer said that he approached the German government for comment and found their reaction “alarming.”

According to the federal government, he said, it was proportionate for police officers to, for example, push a non-aggressive demonstrator off his bicycle and throw him to the ground.

“The authorities’ perception of what is proportionate is skewed,” Melzer said.

Having requested statistics from the federal government on prosecutions of police officers, Melzer discovered that, in two years, only one officer had been prosecuted for using disproportionate force, while in several states there were no statistics at all.

“That’s not a sign of good behaviour, it’s a sign of system failure,” Melzer said. “The authorities don’t even see how blind they are.”

READ ALSO: Transphobic attacks in Germany likely to be under-recorded

He also pointed out the disparity between the punishment of demonstrators and police; while many demonstrators had been tried in summary proceedings, most cases against police officers were dropped or dragged out “until no one is looking anymore.”

He concluded that “police surveillance doesn’t work in Germany” and warned that arrogance “destroys citizens’ trust in the police.”

Melzer sent his final assessment to the German government on March 28th and it is expected to be published in full by the UN Office for Human Rights in June.

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CRIME

German jailed for life in double police murder

A German man was given a life sentence on Wednesday for shooting dead two police officers to escape being caught for illegal game hunting during a routine traffic check.

German jailed for life in double police murder

The regional court in Kaiserslautern found 39-year-old Andreas Schmitt guilty of the killings in January this year, which sent shockwaves across Germany.

His co-defendant, referred to by the court as Florian V., was found guilty of abetting illegal poaching.

The 33-year-old was in the car with Schmitt when the officers discovered dead game in the boot, investigators said.

“We are all to this day horrified that a supposed routine control could turn into a fatal incident,” Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said in a statement after the verdict.

READ ALSO: German prosecutors say poaching led to double police murder

The victims were a 24-year-old woman police officer still in training and her colleague, a 29-year-old man.

The young woman was killed by a single shot to the head, while the man was shot four times, investigators said.

The officers were able to report that they were checking a suspicious vehicle and that shots were being fired before radio contact broke off.

When backup arrived, the woman was already dead and the man fatally injured. The perpetrators had fled the scene.

The crime in the Kusel district of Rhineland-Palatinate state triggered a major manhunt, with police deploying helicopters and sniffer dogs, sealing off roads and warning local residents not to pick up hitchhikers.

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