Human Rights Developments
Due, in part, to more forceful government measures to combat right-wing violence, there was a significant decrease in the number of violent crimes against foreigners in Germany during 1995. The government expanded the number of police and prosecutors trained to investigate and prosecute cases of xenophobic violence. Some local police stations took on liaison officers to deal directly with ethnic and minority communities.
Despite these improvements, however, the number of violent attacks against foreigners was still significantly higher than before German unification. According to foreigners' rights groups, a large number of attacks also went unreported. In addition, 1995 saw an increase in police violence against foreigners. Especially in Berlin, human rights organizations reported numerous cases of police ill-treatment against foreigners, including illegal arrests and beatings during detention. Investigations into reported cases were often initiated, but very few police officers were disciplined and none of the victims were compensated.
While violence against foreigners decreased in 1995, other forms of xenophobic violence appeared to be on the rise. Anti-Semitic crimes soared during 1994 and continued to be a serious problem in 1995. A growing number of right-wing crimes against other minorities, such as the handicapped and homosexuals, was also reported, including a "skinhead" attack against seven handicapped people on a Magdeburg streetcar in August.
The government's firmer measures to combat right-wing violence, which included increased surveillance of far-right groups, sometimes went further than necessary by excessively restricting expression, association and assembly. In total, ten right-wing organizations were banned in Germany from 1993 to 1995, including the Free German Workers' Party, one of the country's largest extremist groups, and the National List. Police conducted numerous raids on the offices and homes of their members, confiscating propaganda materials and some weapons and making numerous arrests.
In April 1995, the German government signed an agreement with Vietnam that guaranteed $140 million of development aid if Vietnam would take back 40,000 Vietnamese citizens who had not yet received legal asylum in Germany. The first four deportees arrived in Vietnam on October 18, and the Vietnamese government promised they would be treated in a "humanitarian manner." But German human rights groups and Vietnamese in Germany expressed concern that some of the deportees, many of whom had been long-time residents of Germany, might face persecution if returned to Vietnam. In addition, there was concern that Vietnamese would be more hesitant to report cases of violence to police for fear of deportation.
Criticized in the past, the judiciary did improve its response to racist violence in 1995. In October, a Dusseldorf court imposed stiff prison sentences on three German youths found guilty of murdering five Turks in a firebomb attack on their home in Solingen in 1993. However, the number of prosecutions dismissed for insufficient evidence remained alarmingly high, suggesting that the prosecutors' offices, as well as the police forces, were not preparing thorough cases. In addition, many violent attacks against Turks were attributed to Kurdish terrorists. Although there is evidence to support this claim, foreigners' rights groups fear that the blame for some right-wing attacks will be shifted away from German citizens.
The State Department's Country Report for Human Rights Practices recognized far-right violence as a problem in Germany in both 1993 and 1994 reviews. The report on 1994, however, generally applauded the German government's responses without commenting on the work that remained to be done. Official relations between the two states remained very friendly; no high-level criticism was directed publicly at the German government's response to violence against foreigners.
The Right to Monitor
The Work of Human Rights Watch/Helsinki