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Committee against Torture examines the situation in Germany

GENEVA (30 April 2019) - The Committee against Torture this afternoon concluded its consideration of the sixth periodic report of Germany on measures taken to implement the provisions of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Peter Jugel, Deputy Permanent Representative of Germany to the United Nations Office at Geneva, recalled that Germany was a supporter of the Committee against Torture and the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, and then introduced the German delegation.  

Introducing the report of Germany, Almut Wittling Vogel, Head of Directorate IV C (Human Rights, European Union Law, and International Law) and the Representative of the Federal Government for Matters Relating to Human Rights, Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection, said that Germany had substantially improved the law on preventive detention and its’ practise; in 2018, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights had recognized that in its current form, preventive detention was fully in line with the European Convention.  The criminal and procedural law provided for the legal means to investigate alleged criminal conduct by police officers, and constituent states (Länder) had taken steps to further improve the corresponding complaint mechanisms, including by resorting to new instruments such as the Public Ombudspersons, who were independent and not bound by any instructions.  Speaking about the violent clashes between demonstrators and police at the Group of 20 Summit in Hamburg in 2017, Ms. Wittling Vogel said that Germany attached great importance to thoroughly investigating all allegations of disproportionate use of force by law enforcement officers, which was also of great significance for the public’s confidence in the police. 

In the dialogue that followed, Committee Experts reiterated concern that serious discrepancies between the Convention’s definition of torture and that incorporated into domestic law created actual or potential loopholes for impunity.  They urged Germany to amend the existing definition so that it covered a broader range of offences, to repeal the statute of limitations, and to include torture as a specific offence in its general criminal law.  Commending Germany’s work to prevent extremism and radicalization, the Experts expressed concern about the far-reaching measures to combat terrorism adopted in the wake of the attack on the Berlin Christmas market in 2016, which weakened the right to a fair trial, and the right to free movement.  They raised concern about the rise in attacks and violence against refugees and asylum-seekers and asked the delegation to outline the measures taken to protect this group and investigate and prosecute all acts of violence.  The Experts discussed the training of state and law enforcement officials in preventing and combatting torture.  The delegation was asked to inform on actions taken to address the reports of the complicity and involvement of some police officers in right-wing and neo-Nazi activities, including threats and intimidation of individuals.

In her concluding remarks, Ms. Wittling Vogel thanked the Committee for a very fruitful dialogue in which the delegation was treated in a very fair manner.

Jens Modvig, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation and wished it all the best in its endeavours. 

The delegation of Germany consisted of representatives of the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection, Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community, Federal Ministry of Defence, Land Anti-Discrimination Agency of Schleswig-Holstein, Ministry of Justice of Rhineland-Palatinate, and the Permanent Mission of Germany to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will issue its concluding observations on the report of Germany at the end of its sixty-sixth session on 17 May.  Those, and other documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, will be available on the session’s webpage.  The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings can be accessed at http://webtv.un.org/.

The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 1 May, to conclude its consideration of the second periodic report of South Africa (CAT/C/ZAF/2).

Report

The Committee has before it the sixth periodic report of Germany (CAT/C/DEU/6) and the list of issues prior to reporting (CAT/C/DEU/QPR/6)

Presentation of the Report

PETER JUGEL, Deputy Permanent Representative of Germany to the United Nations Office at Geneva, recalled that Germany was a supporter of the Committee against Torture and the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture.  Mr. Jugel then introduced the German delegation.  

ALMUT WITTLING VOGEL, Head of Directorate IV C (Human Rights, European Union Law, and International Law) and the Representative of the Federal Government for Matters Relating to Human Rights, Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection of Germany, presenting the report, said that Germany had done its utmost to comply with the requirements defined by the European Court of Human Rights and the Committee’s concerns regarding preventive detention, as well as the requirements of the judgement of the German Federal Constitutional Court.  The law on preventive detention and its practise had been substantially improved.  The Federal authorities and all of the constituent states (Länder) had enacted new statutes on preventive detention, €200 million had been spent on new buildings, and a large number of additional personal had been hired, qualified to care specifically for persons in preventive detention.  This reform had once and for all clarified the fundamental difference between penal imprisonment and preventive detention that aimed to protect the general public against dangerous persons.  As recognized by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in 2018, preventive detention in Germany in its current form was fully in line with the Convention.

German criminal and procedural law provided for the legal means to investigate alleged criminal conduct by police officers, and constituent states had taken steps to further improve the corresponding complaint mechanisms.  New instruments that the Länder were resorting to were the Public Ombudspersons, who were independent and not bound by any instructions.  Turning to the extensive protests, including violent clashes between demonstrators and police at the Group of 20 Summit in Hamburg in 2017, Ms. Wittling Vogel said that criminal investigations had been part of the analysis of the course of action taken by the authorities, and a parliamentary committee of inquiry had been set up in Hamburg.  Germany attached great importance to thoroughly investigating all allegations of disproportionate use of force by law enforcement officers, which was also of great significance for the public’s confidence in the police.

On the prosecution of international crimes, Ms. Wittling Vogel stressed that Germany had always been a strong supporter of international criminal justice.  An important part of its efforts was the domestic prosecution of international crimes in accordance with the principle of universal jurisdiction.  In 2008, a War Crimes Unit had been established in the Office of the Federal Prosecutor General, which pursued a very active policy to implement in practice the German Code of Crimes against International Law.  This Code, together with the Rome Statute, allowed for the prosecution of acts of torture through its provisions on crimes against humanity and war crimes.  The achievements of the War Crimes Unit, which had been repeatedly enlarged over the years, included the three convictions for war crimes by Higher Regional Courts, one of a member of the so-called “Islamic State”, another of a leader of a Syrian militia that had been in control of parts of Aleppo, and most recently, a member of another Syrian militia.  All three convictions included allegations of torture.  The Federal Prosecutor General was currently conducting criminal investigations in 80 cases and arrest warrants had been issued in 15 cases.  

Questions by the Committee Experts

CLAUDE HELLER ROUASSANT, Committee Co-Rapporteur for Germany, recognized the commitment and contribution of Germany to human rights and the prevention of torture and that in a general sense, the situation in prisons and detention centres was in step with international laws and standards.  There were, however, reports of acts of violence by the security forces as well as questions related to the situation of migrants and refugees, including racist expressions and discriminatory attitudes, anti-Islamism and anti-Semitism in particular.

The delegation was asked about measures taken to incorporate the crime of torture in the general criminal legislation and not merely in the Code of Crimes against International Law, as well as to amend the articles of the Criminal Code and the Military Criminal Code to strengthen the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment, for example those related to harm inflicted in the discharge of official duties. 

The Co-Rapporteur recognized that the rights enshrined by the Convention were already covered by the fundamental law and the European Convention for Human Rights, however, gaps remained in the legislation in regards to German nationals who committed acts of torture abroad.  One such example was the case of Colonia Dignidad, in which German citizens participated in the commission of crimes of torture during the dictatorship in Chile in the 1970s.  The absence of the stand-alone criminalization of torture in German law opened the door to impunity, Mr. Heller Rouassant stressed.

Germany maintained that, given the broad scope of judicial protection, it was not necessary to create a state body mandated with the protection of human rights.  The Federal Anti-Discrimination Office, the Federal Agency for the Prevention of Torture, and the National Human Rights Institute were the three principal human rights bodies.  With the adoption of the 2015 law, the National Human Rights Institute had been set up and in 2016 it had obtained A status under the Paris Principles.  What were the selection criteria for its members and how was its governance structured?  The Institute had taken on monitoring functions for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Convention on the Rights of the Child – when would the mandate be extended to the Convention against Torture and other human rights conventions?

The delegation was asked about the appointment of members of the Federal Agency for the Prevention of Torture, a body that served as the national prevention mechanism in Germany, the resources allocated to it and the participation of civil society organizations in it work, as well as how its independence was maintained.  Could the delegation comment on the claims that the budget allocated to the Agency was not sufficient to fully enable its work, in particular in relation to the investigation of allegations of violence committed by the police?  The Agency was responsible for the monitoring of the 280 places of detention that existed in the country and for the monitoring of the expulsions and deportations.  It had raised concern about the use of physical coercive methods and the use of violence by the police in some Länder. 

Amnesty International for example had raised concerns about barriers to the effective investigation of complaints of torture and ill-treatment by the police due to the lack of investigation mechanisms of independent supervisory bodies.  The European Committee for the Prevention against Torture and the Council of Europe had urged Germany to establish of an independent complaints mechanism to cover all the territory and all state agencies.
Germany firmly believed that its anti-terrorism legislation was fully in line with international law and standards, especially following the comprehensive analysis carried out by the Parliamentary Investigative Commission.  In this context, the Co-Rapporteur commended Germany’s work to prevent extremism, including through education, engagement with youth, social work, and activities aimed at de-radicalization.  However, Amnesty International had stated that following the attack in 2016 on the Berlin Christmas market, Germany had adopted far-reaching measures to combat terrorism which weakened the right to a fair trial, and the right to free movement.

The Co-Rapporteur took note of the reports which claimed that Germany facilitated the use of drones by a third party in countries which were not in conflict and which aimed to selectively eliminate certain individuals in violation of international law.  In March 2019, the High Administrative Court of Rhine-Westphalia had made a statement in the case against Germany lodged by citizens of Yemen for its alleged participation in drone attacks in that country in 2012.  The Court had found that Germany had a legal obligation to determine whether drone attacks originating from a military base on its territory were compatible with international law.

The Committee was concerned about the use of the insufficiently defined category of “potential attacker” in the recent anti-terrorism legislation, in particular the 2017 law which extended the monitoring abilities of the Federal Police and authorized the use of measures such as home arrests, electronic bracelets, and monitoring of communications of potential attackers, as well as the extension of pre-trial detention from 14 days to three months in some Länder.

The Committee commended the exceptional leadership of Germany and its response to the 2015 refugee crisis and recognized the political cost that this had incurred for the Federal Government, including political manipulation of the topic by extremist parties.  In 2017, Germany had received 222,683 asylum requests, a 70 per cent drop compared to 2016, and the downward trend continued in 2018 and so far in 2019.  Germany was also a leader in the return and repatriation of refugees, the Co-Rapporteur said, noting that the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees considered the risk of torture in the country of origin while examining asylum requests.

In spite of the worsening conditions in Afghanistan, the return of asylum-seekers from this country continued, and Committee was concerned about the prolonged detention of asylum-seekers awaiting deportation, including those deported under the Dublin procedure, as well as lack of procedures that would allow for the identification of vulnerable asylum-seekers and refugees, including victims of torture.

The attacks and violence against refugees and asylum-seekers continued to be an issue of concern, Mr. Heller Rouassant said, and recognized the seriousness with which the Federal Government had approached the issue, including the extensive consultations with civil society organizations and the adoption of the national action plan against racism and other forms of discrimination.  On 16 April 2019, the law on organized return had been presented to Parliament; it included harsher measures against refugees and asylum-seekers, deprivation of their rights, and the withdrawal of welfare support.  Could the delegation comment?

Mr. Heller Rouassant raised concern about the non-consensual genital mutilation of intersex persons, as 1,700 operations had been conducted without consent and not for urgent reasons.

Finally, the Co-Rapporteur raised the controversial issue of arms exports to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and the link to the conflict in Yemen where numerous human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law were ongoing.  What legislation was in place to govern this issue in line with the human rights policy of Germany?

BAKHTIYAR TUZMUKHAMEDOV, Committee Co-Rapporteur for Germany, reiterated the concern that the serious discrepancies between the Convention’s definition of torture and that incorporated into domestic law created actual or potential loopholes for impunity.  The German Criminal Code hardly reflected various facets of the Convention’s definition, having defined torture as “inflicting bodily harm or bodily injury”.  The Committee urged Germany to amend the existing definition so that it covered a broader range of offences, to repeal the statute of limitations, as well as to include torture as a specific offence in its general criminal law.

As for the use of the Convention against Torture as a source of law or terms of reference in German courts, the Co-Rapporteur noted that the Federal Constitutional Court was more inclined to cite European instruments, rather than the universal Convention against Torture, and that it was not inclined to cite, as an auxiliary source, the views of the Committee.

Reiterating the critical importance of a legal definition of torture in the Criminal Code, the country’s most apparent source of law, the Co-Rapporteur referred to a case brought to the Committee’s attention by the Berlin-based European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights, which involved a German citizen who had allegedly collaborated with Chilean authorities during the military junta.  After the restoration of civilian rule in Chile, charges had been brought against that individual and Chile had requested legal assistance from Germany, including extradition.  However, the non-extradition of its own citizens’ provision of the German basic law combined with the absence of a statute of limitations for the specific crime of torture and the lack of definition of the latter, allowed that German citizen to escape from both Chilean and domestic criminal judicial procedures.   

Turning to the training of law-enforcement personnel, personnel of detention facilities, and medical doctors, Mr. Tuzmukhamedov asked about specific measures taken to ensure that the Istanbul Protocol Manual was taught to specific personnel on a regular and systematic basis.  Were officers dealing with asylum-seekers trained in intercultural communication skills and in identifying signs of enduring mental suffering, and were interpreters trained in assisting medical experts in communications with persons subjected to physical or mental torture?  Germany had been deploying its military forces as part of international missions for a long time, the Co-Raporteur noted, and asked about the training that the troops received in matters of international law.  He remarked that the Manual on the Law of Armed Conflict did not include reference to the Convention against Torture or its Optional Protocol.  Furthermore, the courses in the 2019 catalogue at the German Armed Forces United Nations Training Centre seemed to be devoid of any reference to international humanitarian law or international human rights law.

As for the fundamental legal safeguards, Mr. Tuzmukhamedov pointed to the gaps in the implementation of the relevant legislation, including the failure to inform persons taken into custody of their rights in writing in police stations in Brandenburg, Hamburg, and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.  In Lower Saxony, leaflets for persons taken into custody under the Police Act were only available in German.  The delegation was asked to comment on the systematic application of fundamental legal safeguards, and in particular the use of physical restraints on persons in custody.  

Other Experts remarked that Germany’s legal system was well structured and robust, and in this legal machinery, the Federal Constitutional Court held a very important place.  This Court had taken a raft of decisions, based on complaints filed by individuals whose rights had been infringed on by the authorities.  In its 2009 decision, the Court had found that illegal transfers and secret detention had violated the Constitution of the State, the Experts noted, and asked the delegation to explain the steps taken to follow up on this decision.  Recently, a group of journalists had filed a complaint with the Constitutional Court concerning the power granted to the intelligence services to monitor communications of foreign nationals, in violation of the freedom of expression.

Another Expert raised concern about the excessive length of solitary confinement, which for adults was up to four weeks and for juveniles up to two weeks.  The recommended length of solitary confinement was 14 days for adults, while for juveniles, there was an increasing trend towards the abolition of this disciplinary sanction.

FELICE GAER, Committee Vice-Chairperson, reiterated the Committee’s concern about the rise in attacks and violence against refugees and asylum-seekers and asked the delegation to outline the measures taken to protect this group and investigate and prosecute all acts of violence.  Turning to the issue of universal jurisdiction, Ms. Gaer took positive note of the three convictions for war crimes and the substantial number of cases before German courts and asked how many charges involved human rights violations against the Yazidis in Iraq and crimes against humanity in Syria and Iraq.  Raising concern about the reports of the complicity and involvement of some police officers in right-wing and neo-Nazi activities, including threats and intimidation of individuals, the Vice-Chairperson asked the delegation to inform on measures taken to address this issue.

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation said that the German Institute of Human Rights played an important role in the protection of human rights in the country, and explained that the body was entirely independent.  Its director and deputy director were selected by the Board of Trustees following a public announcement of the vacancy.  The Board of Trustees was a group of independent individuals from various stakeholders, including academia, non-governmental organizations, and Parliament; only those had voting rights.  Other members were various representatives of the Government and its agencies, who did not have voting rights.  All the members were appointed by the Forum for Human Rights and by the Human Rights Committee of the German Parliament.

The current Coalition Government included in its work programme the adoption of a statutory regulation to prevent unnecessary operations on intersex children.  Sex alignment surgery was only allowed if it was a life-saving measure.  A brochure for parents had been issued which encouraged the parents not to resort to surgery. 

As for the judgement of the Munster Upper Administrative Court judgement related to the German facilitation of the use of drones by a third party, the delegation explained that it concerned the role of the Ramstein Air Base and said that the drones were being steered by the United States army from the United States.  Germany was discussing the incidents and the related international obligation with the United States and the personnel in the Ramstein Air Base.  The judgement was unclear in that it had requested the Government “to do more” without clarifying what that entailed, and was not yet final as the Government was submitting an appeal.

Germany was conscious of the precarious financial situation of the national prevention mechanism and the insufficiency of its resources, the delegation said, and explained that a meeting between the Federal Government and the Länder would be convened to discuss the issue, since the mechanism needed to be funded by all.

Preventive detention was different from pre-trial detention, the delegation explained, and said that the legislation had been reformed in line with the recommendations made to Germany by the European Court of Human Rights, the Committee against Torture, and the German Federal Constitutional Court.

SAMIAH EL SAMADONI, Public Ombudsperson for Social Affairs, Commissioner for the Land Police, Ombudsperson for Child and Youth Services, Head of the Land Anti-Discrimination Agency of Schleswig-Holstein, explained that she was a part of the legislative branch, rather than the executive branch, from which the Ombudsperson was fully independent.  The Office received complaints from citizens against the police as well as petitions by police officers concerning irregularities in the service; the Office also received and processed anonymous complaints and petitions.  After the assessment of the situation, the Office would issue a recommendation for action to public authorities or Parliament, and a case could be referred to relevant authorities for disciplinary or criminal sanction.  The Office could also take action on its own.  The Ombudsperson was funded by the Länder’s Parliament.  Since October 2016, the Ombudsperson had received 128 complaints by the public, which concerned mostly impolite treatment at police traffic checks, obstruction of justice, but also bodily harm and illegal detention.  During the same period, the Office had received 371 petitions by police officers that addressed issues such as lack of equipment, irregularities in recruitment, mobbing and sexual harassment, or legitimacy of police internal investigations.  To date, the Office had not identified any structural problems.

The delegation said that the crime of torture was covered by a number of provisions in the German legislation, and the weight of the Convention and Germany’s understanding of the gravity of the crime could be seen in the sentencing range foreseen by the law.  The Convention against Torture, by virtue of its implementing legislation which was based on the Constitution, had the status of a federal law.

In German law, an ongoing investigation in a foreign country did not suspend the statute of limitations, which was due to the role of the statute of limitations in ensuring legal peace and the obligation of German lawmakers to provide for uniform procedures.  In the case of Colonia Dignidad, there had been intensive cooperation between Chilean and German authorities, which reflected the importance that Germany attached to the issue.  A joint Commission had been set up to provide support to the victims and support the investigation.

The German law provided for the autonomy of the Länder to decide how to identify police officers, and different Länder used different models.  As for the Federal Police, the Government did not see a reason for the police officers to wear identification badges or other forms of identification, and there had not been a single case or complaint which could not be processed because a person was not wearing an identification tag.  Introducing the complaint mechanisms or procedures was within the competence of the Länder, and again, the picture was very diverse.  For the Federal Government, it was important to have mechanisms in place to identify and address ill conduct and there was no need to introduce a complaints agency.  Procedures for internal or external complaints were in place and were being used, including online.  Several Länder had independent agencies, often in the form of an Ombudsperson.

Germany was currently in the second cycle of reporting on the implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.  The Coalition Agreement, on which the current Government was based, explicitly mentioned the action to enhance structures to fight human trafficking.  A Working Group on human trafficking had been in place since 1997 to promote cooperation between the Federal Government and the Länder on the issue.  Two new working groups had been set up, on human trafficking for purposes of labour exploitation, and on the protection of children from sexual violence and child trafficking.  Among others, the Act to Protect People Working in Prostitution had been enacted in 2017.

The placement of asylum-seekers was within the competence of Länder, although the federal authorities were closely involved, namely the Federal Office of Migration and Refugees.  The Coalition Agreement provided for the creation of the so-called “anchor centres” in order to streamline and solidify the arrival, decision and return process.  An asylum-seeker would be placed in the centre upon arrival and would be moved into another accommodation once their request was processed.  The centres had been set up in three Länder so far; the responsibility for their financing and running was with each Land while the Federal authorities provided tools for better and early identification of asylum-seekers and were responsible for assessing the asylum request.  The anchor centres were not closed units nor were there centres for persons deprived of their liberty; the asylum-seekers were free to move and leave the centre, however, the right to asylum benefits were attached to their staying in the centre.

In terms of resettlement of refugees and asylum-seekers from third countries, Germany was a part of the European Union scheme under which it had agreed to accept 10,200 individuals in 2018/19.  Under the scheme, Germany would receive 6,000 individuals from Turkey; 3,200 from Libya and Niger; 2,900 from Egypt, Ethiopia, Jordan and Lebanon; 500 would arrive as part of a pilot project based on private sponsoring; and another 500 would be received by Schleswig-Holstein.

At the moment, there were 240,000 persons awaiting deportation.  Those were asylum-seekers whose requests had been rejected and denied on appeal; of those 180,000 had “tolerated status” as their deportation decisions had been suspended.  The Orderly Return Act had lowered the threshold for immigration detention and strengthened the provisions to manage the deportation of deportees who avoided deportation, committed a criminal offence, or falsified documents.  Those individuals could now be detained. 

As far as deportations to Afghanistan were concerned, the delegation explained that following the attacks on the Embassy in Kabul, the deportations had been suspended since the local-level support was not available.  The deportations were now resuming, on a case-by-case basis, for individuals fulfilling one of the three conditions: a potential terrorist threat, falsified identity, or criminal who had committed serious crimes.  There was certainly no deportation of families or children. 

The Istanbul Protocol had been translated into German and standards and guidelines for the identification and assessment of traumatized individuals were being developed.  A number of training materials and training activities had been developed, often in cooperation with professional associations, for example of medical doctors.  Prohibition and prevention of torture was an essential part of the basic training of the armed forces.   
  
In terms of international justice, the delegation said that during the 2011-2019 period, the War Crimes Unit had conducted 55 investigative proceedings, which contained allegations of torture, and there were 37 investigations still open; the majority dealt with Iraq and Syria.  As for the cases involving Yazidis, there was an ongoing case before a court in Munich in which a German citizen stood accused of the murder of a Yazidi child and the torture of the mother.  The sale of arms was highly regulated and could only take place based on licences issued by the Federal Government after it assessed the impact on human rights and whether the arms would be used in a conflict.

The Code of Criminal Procedure contained the specific notification of rights procedure, which was applicable not only when a person was deprived of liberty but as soon as a person was accused, and it included a right to a lawyer, the right to refuse testimony, and others.  The information leaflet on the rights of detainees was available in 48 languages in addition to German; if a police station did not have the leaflet in a required language, it could download it from the website of the Federal Ministry.  The regulation of prisons had been in the competence of the Länder since 2006, and all had adopted their own prison laws, which largely implemented the provisions of the Federal Prison Act.

The delegation stressed that violence against refugees was declining; in 2018, for example, a 20 per cent drop had been registered.  Violence had been registered in about two thirds of the offences.  Germany had taken a number of steps to protect refugees and accommodation centres, including physical measures, information leaflets on living together, establishment of a helpline, and training of the staff in the accommodation centres on protection against violence.  There was a minimum standard for the protection of women and children from violence in the accommodation centres.

Germany was interested in prosecuting its nationals who had been fighters with the Islamic State.  Some were detained in Iraq; every citizen had the right to return to the country, but foreign fighters did not have the right to be actively retrieved.  In individual cases, women and children had been returned from Turkey and Iraq; such returns must be prepared well in advance and with a lot of attention.

In 2018, there had been 140,000 victims of intimate violence, such as murder, stalking, or forced prostitution.  Of those, 82 per cent were women and 73 per cent of all victims were German.

Follow-up Questions and Answers

CLAUDE HELLER ROUASSANT, Committee Co-Rapporteur for Germany, reiterated the concern about the financial challenges that the national prevention mechanism continued to face and stressed that this mechanism was essential for the implementation of the Convention in Germany.  The national prevention mechanism was prohibited by the legislation to publish the names of private institutions where violations of the Convention against Torture took place.  The Co-Rapporteur commended the adoption of the Istanbul Protocol and its designation as the main tool in the fight against torture, and asked the delegation about tangible impacts of its implementation.

BAKHTIYAR TUZMUKHAMEDOV, Committee Co-Rapporteur for Germany, asked the delegation to explain the process by which rules and principles of international law were integrated in the German law, and in particular who decided on those principles.  In this context, it was particularly important to ensure that national law contained a specific definition and prohibition of torture, especially as Germany had a fundamentally continental system of law where the “black letter of the law” mattered.

Responding, the delegation said that the National Agency for the Prevention of Torture was mandated to monitor the implementation of the Convention against Torture, thus it was not necessary to add the same mandate to the German Institute for Human Rights.  Medical care was provided to refugees and asylum-seekers by the anchor centres themselves, while specialized medical care was available upon referral, including for traumatized individuals.

Germany was aware of the weaknesses in the Colonia Dignitas case and reiterated its commitment to ensuring the accountability of all its citizens who had committed serious crimes.  The decisive movement in this case had been the entry into force of the statute of limitations, explained the delegate. 

The national prevention mechanism had the obligation to report all violations of the Convention against Torture in all places of detention and institutions, including private ones; it had to report all those to the supervisory authority which was then under the obligation to take measures.  However, it was difficult to publish the names of the offending institutions in the annual report, which was available to the public, and this was due to the fact that the national prevention mechanism could not visit all the private institutions, like care homes for the elderly, and publishing negative information about only some of them would amount to unfair treatment.

Concluding Remarks

ALMUT WITTLING VOGEL, Head of Directorate IV C (Human Rights, European Union Law, and International Law) and the Representative of the Federal Government for Matters Relating to Human Rights, Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection of Germany, thanked the Committee for a very fruitful dialogue in which the delegation was treated in a very fair manner.

JENS MODVIG, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation and wished it all the best in its endeavours.  The Committee would select three urgent recommendations for follow up, on which the State party would need to report within a year.  All States parties were encouraged to also submit a review of the implementation of the Committee’s concluding observations.

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