On the ground | Information democracy | Profiling practices | Surveillance and data retention

Germany: New police law proposals threaten civil rights

The number of police laws in Germany has increased in recent months.

By Kerstin Demuth and Sebastian Lisken, Digitalcourage (guest author) · December 5, 2018

The number of police laws in Germany has increased in recent months. Several states have introduced changes to their police laws that all follow the same line: the police need more means and powers to combat terrorism. Advocacy around these these laws is complicated by the country’s federal system, where each federal state has their own police forces and governing laws.

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These new law proposals are introduced under the pretext of increasing security, but they may result in actually stripping away important protections and safeguards against governmental repression. With the exception of one federal state, all regional governments are pushing for drastic measures of surveillance: governmental hacking via state trojans, more video surveillance, more police controls in the public space, lifelong restraining orders, weeks of imprisonment without legal aid and arming the police forces with machine guns. The biggest threat to our rights and freedoms, though, is a paradigm shift underlying all these new police laws: the required condition for surveillance measures is changing from a concrete suspicion to an “impending threat”. This takes away a fundamental principle under the rule of law: people will no longer know by which behaviour they can avoid being targeted by police measures. The vagueness of terms and the lack of requirement for reasonable suspicion increase risks of arbitrariness in the use of police force.

All across Germany alliances have formed to stop these infringements on our rights and freedoms. EDRi member Digitalcourage has taken an active role in several of these alliances, with contributions to state parliament hearings, online petitions and other supporting work. Tens of thousands of people have protested in the state capitals of Munich (Bavaria), Düsseldorf (North Rhine-Westphalia) and Hanover (Lower Saxony). In Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia the governments’ plans have been postponed. Next steps include legal action. The protest alliances are supported by various civil society organisations and movements: antifascists and liberals, data protection activists and football fans, environmentalists and lawyers. It is an unusually broad alliance of groups that are aware how deeply these laws would affect our everyday lives.


Digitalcourage: articles on police law reforms in Germany (only in German)

“Against police laws and interior armament” – blog article (only in German)

“Against police laws and interior armament” – petition form (only in German)

(Contribution by Kerstin Demuth and Sebastian Lisken, EDRi member Digitalcourage, Germany)