Criticism: UN expert: system failure in police violence in Germany

UN expert: system failure in police violence in Germany

UN Special Rapporteur Nils Melzer at a press conference in Geneva. Photo: Salvatore Di Nolfi/KEYSTONE/dpa

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“The authorities don’t even see how blind they are” – that is the harsh judgment of the UN human rights expert Nils Melzer on disproportionate use of force by the police at demonstrations.

According to a UN human rights expert, there is a “system failure” in Germany when it comes to dealing with police violence.

This is the conclusion drawn by the previous UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, Nils Melzer, from his exchange with the federal government, as he told the German Press Agency. “Die Welt” had previously reported on it.

In the summer of 2021, Melzer was startled by several videos that apparently showed police violence in Berlin demonstrations against corona measures. He expressed concern about it and asked the federal government for a statement. “I found the government’s reaction worrying,” he said now. In the opinion of the federal government, it was proportionate that police officers, for example, pushed a non-aggressive demonstrator off his bike and threw it on the ground. “The authorities’ perception of what is proportionate is distorted,” said Melzer.

Not a single cop prosecuted in two years

He asked the federal government for statistics on how many police officers were prosecuted for disproportionate violence, said Melzer. The answer was: in two years there was only one, and in several federal states there are no statistics at all. “This is not a sign of good behavior, but of system failure,” said Melzer. “The authorities don’t see how blind they are.”

While demonstrators would sometimes be sentenced in summary proceedings, proceedings against police officers would be stopped or delayed “until nobody is looking anymore”. His conclusion: “Police surveillance does not work in Germany.” Arrogance is dangerous, said Melzer: “It destroys citizens’ trust in the police.”

Melzer sent his final assessment to Berlin on March 28th. It takes 60 days for the UN Human Rights Office to publish them. Melzer resigned from his UN post at the end of March because of an appointment to the Board of Directors of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The dialogue with Berlin is now complete, said Melzer. His successor will be elected in June and is likely to focus on other issues.


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