By Gesellschaft für Freiheitsrechte

EDRi observer Gesellschaft für Freiheitsrechte (GFF) is preparing a joint constitutional complaint to be brought before the German Constitutional Court against the newly passed Bavarian Police Act (PAG) and has started a crowdfunding campaign for that case. In the last couple of weeks Germany has seen major protests against the Bavarian Police Task Act (#noPAG) – but nevertheless, the law was passed by the Bavarian state parliament on 15 May and went into force on 25 May.

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GFF sees the law as a massive threat to civil rights in Bavaria. Critics have seized especially on a definition shift in the Christlich-Soziale Union (CSU) government’s law for the threshold for police intervention from “imminent danger” (konkrete Gefahr) to “looming danger” (drohende Gefahr) as the threshold for police intervention. “Not only does the police get a whole new set of competences to restrict civil rights, but they can also act much earlier. Previously, there were clear requirements as to when the police should be allowed to act, and police action could be tested by administrative courts. In the future, it can hardly be regulated if a given situation is actually presented a “looming danger”, explains Ulf Buermeyer, chairman of Gesellschaft für Freiheitsrechte. “Now, the police is in fact almost free to intervene at their own discretion”. This law will impact digital rights on a whole range of issues, like the use of drones to make images of public events , including specific identification of individuals, lower legal requirements for the police to use wiretapping or get access to user data from third parties.

Consequently, loosening legal requirements to only a “looming danger” will be one of the main issues in GFF´s constitutional complaint. A group of lawyers and civil rights groups is preparing a complaint and currently examining the law for other infringements of civil and human rights. “There are several options to act in the courts against the law. For us it is important to act as thoroughly as possible. We need a brilliant complaint to be successful”, Buermeyer adds.

GFF and other critics fear that the law in Bavaria is only a beginning for a nation-wide change in police legislation, since the newly elected Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer has been Bavarian prime minister and is also a prominent CSU party member – the party that drafted and pushed the new law. Accordingly, Seehofer considers the new police powers in Bavaria as a blueprint for the rest of the country.

GFF prepared a synopsis (available only in German), that containings the four different versions of the Bavarian Police Act: the one before 01.08.2017, the one since 01.08.2017, the draft of January 2018 and the proposed changes of CSU, that went into force on 25 May.

(Contribution by Gesellschaft für Freiheitsrechte, EDRi member, Germany)

Read more:

GFF: Bavarian Police Act Synopsis (available only in German):

Bavarians protest against vastly extended police powers (16.05.2018)