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German Law To Muzzle Citizens’ Debate Won’t Stop Growing Revolt

Oct. 25, 2022 (EIRNS)—It took a few days, but now there is public debate and uproar about the almost secretive passing of a very ominous German law. “Public trivialization of war crimes” will be punishable in Germany, a very vague expansion of an existing law against incitement and the denial of the Holocaust. Anyone who publicly “grossly” trivializes genocide or war crimes will in future face up to three years in prison for incitement of people. A corresponding expansion of §130 of the German Criminal Code (StGB) was decided by the governing “traffic light coalition” in the Bundestag. It passed in the evening of Oct. 20 almost unnoticed, and without any longer deliberations in the so-called omnibus procedure, in addition to another, unrelated law.

Legal Tribune Online (LTO) editor Hasso Suliak, and a lawyer with consultancy Wolters Kluwer, writes in LTO: “A new paragraph, §130, Paragraph 5 of the Criminal Code, will in future punish the public approval, denial and gross trivialization of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, if the act is committed in a way that is likely to incite hatred or violence and to disturb the public peace.” In Suliak’s view, “In the future, this may also include statements made during a meeting, for example, as part of a demonstration. According to the assessment of right-wing politicians, it cannot be ruled out that criminal offenses will be committed on the basis of the new regulation, for example at pro-Putin meetings when people from Ukraine are incited to hate.”

This act was apparently created as a response to an infringement proceeding brought against the Federal Republic by the EU Commission in December 2021, demanding that Germany more adequately implement the “Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA of 28 November 2008 on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law,” particularly with regard to public denial and gross trivialization. However, the new law formulation goes beyond the EU framework decision, supposedly to avoid “systematic contradictions” referring to the already existing prohibitions against approval, denial and trivialization of the Holocaust.

Clara Bünger, lawyer and expert for legal affairs for Die Linke party explained their parliamentary group’s rejection to this change in law, including that the reorganization carries the danger of limiting the freedom of opinion and/or being arbitrarily applied. According to the current wording of the regulations, “even an endorsement of Russia’s attack on Ukraine—depending on the exact circumstances of the crime—is punishable under the new provision,” according to Bünger.

Alternative für Deutschland  party legal policy expert Stephan Brandner told LTO that the AfD parliamentary group is fundamentally critical of the “systematics” of §130 of the Criminal Code. He criticized the legislative omnibus procedure and the “further inflation of the paragraph with vague legal terms, such as ‘grossly trivialized.’ ” According to Brandner, the applicability in the context of the war in Ukraine is given, “although the vagueness leaves the possibilities for applying the provision largely open.”

From the opposite end of the political spectrum, the Green Rapporteur on the issue, Dep. Canan Bayram confirms that under the new law, there can be “constellations” under which “expressions can fall, which whitewash Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine.” However, she pointed out that “the provision covers the trivialization, denial or approval of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes, but not the crime of aggression under Section 13 of the International Criminal Code.”

The responsible rapporteur of the FDP parliamentary group, Thorsten Lieb, claims that the amendment to §130 of the Criminal Code is “primarily of a clarifying nature in order to meet the requirements of the treaty infringement proceedings.” He denied that this is a “lex Putin” and claims that “the extent to which §130 of the German Criminal Code can have a penal effect for condoning, denying and grossly trivializing these acts is left to the courts.”  His comment, of course, ignores the fact that the European Union made no issue of insisting Germany impose the EU law against racism until there was growing public resentment among Germans over involvement under NATO cover in its Ukraine war on Russia.

Legal linguistics aside, it is obviously targeted at assaulting freedom of expression and intimidating the German population. But it will not work, as protests are now widely erupting in response to the underlying economic and social suffering in Germany. And interesting questions remain, such as, will the law also be applied to protect those who have been targeted by Ukrainian secret services with black lists, inciting to hatred and violence? Or, what about the rights of Russian citizens living in Germany, who have already become targets attack by the one-sided German media and political system, and including the systematic witchhunt against Russian culture and representatives.

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