Press Releases

    HR/CT/647
           18 March 2004

    Human Rights Committee Welcomes Germany’s Creation of New Institutions to Protect Fundamental Freedoms

    But Concerns Expressed Regarding Reports of Ill-Treatment by Police of Persons in Custody, Particularly Foreigners, Ethnic Minorities

    NEW YORK, 17 March (UN Headquarters) -- Meeting to review Germany’s efforts to comply with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a top United Nations panel of human rights experts today welcomed the creation of new institutions aiming to ensure that Germany’s citizens enjoyed many of the rights and freedoms protected by the Covenant, but expressed concern about reports of ill-treatment of persons in police custody, particularly foreigners, members of ethnic minorities and asylum seekers. 

    As the Committee on Human Rights heard Germany’s fifth periodic report, Klause Stoltenberg, Federal Commissioner for Human Rights Matters in Germany’s Justice Ministry, highlighted improvements under way in the country’s internal rights-based institutions and other domestic advances, particularly to address xenophobia, discrimination and anti-Semitism.

    A major milestone had been the creation in 2001 of an independent national Human Rights Institute, he said. The Institute, headed by civic advocates rather than government officials, was set to become a focal point for Germany’s drive to promote human rights and was committed to human rights education and application-oriented research. It also promoted dialogue and cooperation between the Government and non-governmental organizations, he said.

    Roger Kiel, Head of the Police Affairs Division in the Ministry of the Interior, said the Government took every charge of ill-treatment by police officers and the Federal Border Guard very seriously and thoroughly investigated such charges. However, he stressed that past experience had led authorities to suspect that foreigners facing deportation often lodged such complaints in order to prevent or at least postpone return to their homelands. Further, authorities had noticed striking similarities in many of the complaints, revealing that some of the persons might even be collaborating.

    He added that no statistics were kept about investigations into ill-treatment of foreign nationals or asylum seekers. However, the Government took all reports or allegations of mistreatment by police officers very seriously, believing that such incidents must be cleared up quickly, and that those responsible must be held accountable under criminal or disciplinary law. Furthermore, criminal proceedings against police officers were regularly taken as a cause to re-examine the need to amend service provision laws.

    Mr. Kiel stressed that Germany’s ban on torture, as well as other inhuman or degrading treatment, was absolute. Consequently, it was clear that the Government categorically rejected the opinions expressed by police and judiciary that torture might be acceptable in “extreme cases”. The ban on torture was one of the most widely accepted fundamental rights, and the inviolability of human dignity was enshrined in the German constitution.  He added that criminal law also ensured that those found guilty of torture or the threat of torture were subject to severe penalties.

    Introducing the report, Gunter Pleuger, Germany’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, stressed that promotion and protection of human rights was viewed as an ongoing priority –- a cross-cutting task affecting most areas of everyday life. But translating human rights into daily reality was not for governments alone to do: parliamentary bodies, courts and civil society groups also made important contributions.

    The Committee will reconvene tomorrow afternoon at 3 p.m. to begin consideration of Suriname’s fifth periodic report on compliance with the Covenant.

    Background

    The Human Rights Committee met this morning to consider Germany’s fifth periodic report on its efforts to implement the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (document CCPR/C/DEU/2002/5), which the country sees as a bit of an “anniversary”, in that it covers a period in which Germany celebrated the fiftieth anniversaries of both its Constitution and its Federal Constitutional Court. According to the report, that Court’s solid decision-making has greatly contributed to Germany’s efforts to ensure the protection and promotion of human rights and the country itself was now a “reliable and integral factor in worldwide and regional cooperation within the international community, and particularly within the field of human rights”.

    The report goes on to say that basic human rights form the cornerstone of Germany’s system of government, and the guarantee of uniform civil liberties, based in no small part on the tenets of the Covenant, had strengthened the will of the people to strive for freedom and unity. After briefly highlighting several institutional advances and other domestic tools available to promote human rights, the report focuses on a major milestone: the 2001 creation of an independent national Human Rights Institute. The agency’s subsidiary organs have since been established and have begun work. The Institute will be an information centre and focal point for work in the field of human rights and will be committed to human rights education and application-oriented research.  It will also promote dialogue and cooperation between the Government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

    Another focus of Germany’s work in the field of human rights has been to take decisive action against right-wing radical, xenophobic and anti-Semitic violence. According to the report, the Alliance for Democracy and Tolerance, established in 2000 and consisting of some 900 groups and individuals, coordinates and supports projects spearheading the fight against xenophobia. In addition to commitment within Germany, the Government had been working both at regional and international levels to further the system of human rights. In the context of the Council of Europe, Germany emphasizes constructive cooperation with the European Human Rights Court as well as adherence to and further development of the European Convention on Human Rights.

    The report follows with a detailed account of Germany’s efforts to ensure individual rights under the Covenant, including gender equality (Article 3), prohibition of slavery and forced labour (Article 8), freedom of association (Article 22), and children’s rights (Article 24). On protecting the rights of prisoners or detainees (Article 10), the report states that many of the Committee’s prior suggestions have led to many improvements in German detention centres and prisons. To that end, the abuse of detained persons was now classified as a criminal offence, and law enforcement officers were subjected to monitoring by their supervisors as well as relevant ministries.

    Report of Germany

    Presenting his country’s fifth periodic report on compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, GUNTER PLEUGER, Germany’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, said his delegation would discuss the progress towards ensuing civil liberties and fundamental rights in the country during the period 1996 to 2002. The presentation would highlight the renewed focus the Government had brought to human rights since 1998.  Indeed, the promotion of and protection of human rights was viewed as an ongoing priority –- a cross-cutting task which affected many areas of everyday life.

    Germany believed that human rights wholeheartedly deserved the attention of the Security Council, and he welcomed its recent decisions, which stressed the need to respect international human rights norms. He believed such cooperation could and should be further developed, particularly in the battle against terrorism, for unless human rights were fully respected, any gains in that area would be short lived.

    However, translating human rights into daily reality was not just the task of governments alone: parliamentary bodies, courts and civil society groups also made important contributions, he continued. Germany believed in the universality of human rights and worked to ensure that that became the accepted view all over the world. He reiterated that the task of giving practical effect to human rights norms was an ongoing process that needed continuous monitoring at national and local levels. Without transparency, any country’s efforts towards that noble goal would be hindered. To that end, Germany’s delegation today would respond to the Committee’s questions frankly and openly.

    German Delegation’s Response to Written Questions

    In a brief overview of human institutions and measures in Germany, KLAUSE STOLTENBERG, the Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Matters in Germany’s Federal Ministry of Justice, stressed that only those that were aware of human rights violations in their own countries and did not close their eyes to such facts could work to ensure that fundamental rights were respected worldwide. Outlining the country’s recent activities in the area, particularly in the fight against discrimination and xenophobia, he highlighted the importance of the establishment of the German Human Rights Institute in 2001.

    The agency was now vigorously moving ahead with its work. As a founding member of the Institute, which had the important task of monitoring the human rights situation in Germany, he stressed that the Institute was not a government body, but rather an agency operating within and for civil society. Government representatives had no voting rights on the Institute’s Board. The Institute would contribute towards enlightening public attitudes towards human rights and would be an information centre and focal point for work in that field. It would also be committed to human rights education and application-oriented research and would promote dialogue and cooperation between the Government and NGOs.

    He then outlined the many ways in which the Government would ensure the widest dissemination of the discussions, recommendations and decisions that would emerge from the Committee’s review today. The Federal Ministry of Justice would largely oversee those efforts. For the first time, NGOs and civic action networks had been given the opportunity to examine and comment on the compliance report before its adoption by the German Cabinet. He said that early participation of the NGOs would help jump-start an open and honest discussion of internal human rights problems at national and community levels.

    Having the Cabinet adopt the fifth periodic report also meant that the process would be drawn to the attention of and discussed by other top ministries. The report was made available to the public via the Government’s Web site. He added that the Committee’s final comments and recommendations would also be widely disseminated. Germany actively promoted follow-up discussion of the outcome at local and community levels.

    The experts sought clarification as to whether Germany regarded the Covenant as applicable to its armed or police forces deployed internationally, including in Afghanistan. What degree of human rights training did they receive prior to deployment on peacekeeping operations, and how many cases of criminal or disciplinary sanctions had arisen concerning any alleged human rights violations?

    ROGER KIEL, Head of Police Affairs in the German Federal Ministry of Interior, said that all participants in foreign operations attended training, including legal elements, before deployment abroad.  The rules of engagement, in particular, were explained to ensure the lawful exercise of military control. Furthermore, all superior officers from staff sergeant to brigadier general underwent, in addition to their career and assignment training, central training of command personnel at the Leadership Development and Civic Education Centre.

    Police officers received a total of four hours’ training on the subject of human rights as part of a three-week preparatory seminar, he said. Police officers deployed to establish a police force in Afghanistan received one week’s preparatory training. While the curriculum did not contain a specific module on human rights, respect for basic rights and human rights constituted a standard element of every German police-training syllabus.

    He said that up to now there had been no indications of any human rights violations by German soldiers or police officers during foreign operations. Any criminal investigations conducted so far related to suspected negligent manslaughter and bodily injury in connection with drivers of vehicles and with handling arms and ammunition, as well as the suspected commission of property offences to the detriment of the armed or police forces.

    Asked how Germany regarded the anti-terrorism measures it had adopted since 11 September 2001, notably the Law on the Combat of Terrorism, to be consistent with the Covenant, he replied that laws created since 11 September 2001 established an appropriate balance between the changed demands of security, on the one hand, and the rights to individual liberty, on the other. The provisions of the Covenant, in particular the rights to protection from arbitrary and unlawful interference with privacy, including data protection, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, had not been violated.  Interference with those rights was determined by law and, in combating terrorism in the interests of national and public security and order, was necessary and proportionate.

    Asked to describe the effects of the 2001 Federal Equality Act in achieving equality for men and women in the public service, he said it aimed at eliminating existing, and preventing future, gender discrimination. Women were to be promoted in order to dismantle existing disadvantages, and the object of the Act was also to improve coexistence in the family and gainful employment for women and men.

    Regarding reported deaths in police custody, as well as criminal and disciplinary actions against those responsible, he said, with respect to the death in custody of Stephen Neisius on 11 May 2002 in Cologne, that six officers had been suspended from service. Charges against six other officers had been dropped after investigations had failed to prove their involvement. On 25 July 2003, the Cologne District Court had found the six original defendants guilty of bodily injury resulting in death and had imposed on them suspended prison sentences of between one year and one year and four months.

    Germany’s delegation then responded to a number of the experts’ questions and concerns on matters related to deaths of foreigners during deportation; ill-treatment of persons by the police and the number and outcome of investigations into such incidents; the Government’s position on public statements made by members of the police force and judiciary that torture should be permissible in “extreme cases”; deportation of persons who may face torture or persecution by non-State actors in their countries of origin; and other asylum and returns issues.

    Mr. KIEL said that, in principle, the Federal Government took every charge of ill-treatment by officers of the Federal Border Guard very seriously and thoroughly investigated such charges. Along with clearing those cases internally, evidence was passed on to the relevant public prosecutor’s office, which would then decide whether to open criminal investigations into the incidents. However, he stressed that past experience had led authorities to suspect that foreigners facing deportation often lodged such complaints in order to prevent or at least postpone return to their homelands. Further, authorities had noticed striking similarities in many of the complaints, revealing that some of the persons might even be collaborating. He added that some deportees, faced with legitimate deportation, put up “vigorous resistance”, often injuring Border Guards.

    He went on to give a detailed summary of two relevant incidents that had drawn the Committee’s attention, involving, respectively, Algerian national Mokhtar Bahira and Sudanese national Aaamir Ageeb.  Mr. Bahira, whose family application for German asylum had been rejected, was scheduled to be deported in September 1999. He was seriously injured when he was shot after he put a knife to his own throat and moved towards an open window on the day local police arrived at his home to begin deportation proceedings.

    Local courts had found against Mr. Bahira for giving false testimony on the witness stand during preliminary proceedings -- a decision Mr. Bahira was currently appealing. Yet, due to the seriousness of his injuries, he and his family had been granted an exception and leave to remain in Germany.

    Mr. Ageeb had died in a scuffle with three Federal Border Guard officers shortly after take-off of the plane returning him to Khartoum, the Sudanese capital. The officers were charged with negligent homicide, accused of forcing Mr. Ageeb to take his seat on the plane in an attempt to end his forceful resistance to deportation. The trial against the accused officers had begun last month in Frankfurt. Following Mr. Ageeb’s death, Germany suspended the Guard’s accompaniment of all deportations that were expected to be problematic. He added that the incident had also prompted a serious overview of detention methods, as well as training of deportation officers. The Government was actively trying to ensure that the conduct of its officers was commensurate with each situation and that the safety of both deportees, as well as the officers, was guaranteed.

    On allegations of ill-treatment and the number of investigations into such incidents, Mr. Kiel said that no statistics were kept on those issues. However, the Government took all reports or allegations of mistreatment by police officers very seriously, he stressed. It believed that such incidents must be cleared up quickly, and that those responsible must be held accountable under criminal or disciplinary law.  Furthermore, criminal proceedings against police officers were regularly taken as a cause to re-examine whether service provision laws needed to be amended.

    Turning to matters related to torture, he said that Germany’s ban on that practice, as well as other inhuman or degrading treatment, was absolute. Consequently, it was clear that the Government categorically rejected the opinions expressed by police and judiciary that torture might be acceptable in extreme cases. The ban on torture was one of the most widely accepted fundamental rights, and the inviolability of human dignity was enshrined in the German constitution.  He added that criminal law also ensured that those found guilty of torture or the threat of torture were subject to severe penalties.

    Experts’ Comments and Questions

    WALTER KÄLIN, expert from Switzerland, asked about difficulties associated with federalism in the implementation of international human rights guarantees.

    Regarding the extraterritorial applicability of the Covenant, he asked if the Government felt that article 9 of the Covenant applied to the arrest and detention of suspects in Afghanistan. In terms of the right to self-determination, the Covenant did apply to reported complaints about the effect of low-level flights over areas of Canada’s Labrador province inhabited by the Innu people.

    With respect to the report’s reference to the use of firearms in extreme cases, he questioned whether that use was always within the limits of the relevant legislation. What kind of measures were planned to limit further the use of firearms in cases that did not involve imminent danger?

    IVAN SHEARER, expert from Australia and Rapporteur of the Committee, asked how the independence of the Human Rights Institute could be guaranteed.

    ROMAN WIERUSZEWSKI, expert from Poland and a Committee Vice-Chairman, said European countries had an unfortunate tendency to diminish the role of United Nations treaty bodies and to lend more weight to European bodies.

    Referring to the effect of legislation to combat discrimination against women, he asked about measures to combat domestic violence and sensitize the judiciary to the need to protect the victims. To what extent did such measures cover the female population of the former German Democratic Republic?

    He said measures were in place to prevent the forcible repatriation of refugees -- particularly girls -- who were at risk in their own homelands. Were anti-terrorism measures having the effect of preventing asylum seekers from gaining entry owing to suspicion that they may be terrorists?

    NIGEL RODLEY, expert from the United Kingdom, asked what role the Independent Commission on Human Rights and the Human Rights Institute would play. What figures were available on the numbers of police officers removed from service after being convicted of torture?

    HIPÓLITO SOLARI-YRIGOYEN, expert from Argentina, noting that certain fundamental rights were guaranteed only for German nationals and not for foreign legal residents, sought clarification, in particular, on the right to freedom of movement. The German Constitution was much more limited on that matter than the Covenant. Did the Constitution grant legal residents the right to move freely, to choose or change their residence or did they have to seek permission?

    CHRISTINE CHANET, expert from France, asked whether Germany intended to retain its reservations on article 15 (paragraph 1) of the Covenant.

    Germany’s Response

    Responding to the questions, Mr. STOLTENBERG offered to send the Committee further details on the Human Rights Institute. That body had not been established to investigate specific cases of civil rights abuses, but instead would look at cases to determine whether structural deficits were at the heart of such violations. With regard to that body’s independence, he said that all 16 of its members came from civil society. Even though it did receive a government subsidy, there were no stipulations attached.  Government officials only served in an advisory capacity, he added.

    He said the law in Germany was very clear on torture -- it was banned without exception. He went on to say that State courts had indeed ruled that foreign nationals had more or less the same rights as other German citizens. On German’s reservation to article 15 of the Covenant, on criminal punishment, he said he was somewhat positive it would be removed, although he could not say exactly when. Germany would maintain its reservation to article 26. Regarding the optional protocol, Germany was awaiting the decision of the European Court of Human Rights on the issue.

    FRANK MENGEL, head of the Division for Asylum Law, Federal Ministry of the Interior, said that freedom of movement regulations did not include all categories of foreign nationals. Those from European Union member States had freedom of movement, in principle, throughout the country. Legal asylum seekers were allowed to stay in Germany during asylum proceedings, but were limited to provincial authority. Illegal foreign nationals or asylum seekers could not move freely within the country. Other restrictions could be ordered to further curtail such movement, but that was rare, he added.

    As for the consequences of anti-terrorist legislation and its effect on asylum seekers and refugees, he said Germany had begun from a position of implementing relevant resolutions of the United Nations Security Council. Nevertheless, the Government had very little experience with application of the laws, as very few rulings had been handed down by the courts.

    He went on to say that medical treatment could postpone deportation, particularly in instances where there was clear evidence that such treatment would not be provided by the country of origin. Relevant authorities worked hard to ensure that proper health care was provided before deportation proceedings were begun. He added that the Federal Government did hear cases brought by individual’s claiming that their countries of origin were unsafe or where the persons were likely to be politically persecuted upon their return.  Germany strenuously tried to ensure that persons who returned to countries of origin were not tortured.

    Mr. KIEL said that counter-terrorist legislation had been created to ensure that organizations did not hide behind a purported religious affiliation in order to actually engage in terrorist activity. Otherwise, there were very rare exceptions to guarantees of freedom of religion and association. He reiterated that there were no central statistics on ill-treatment of persons by police officers. There were statistics on disciplinary actions taken against police, but those might include incidents that occurred outside the scope of their duties. Germany had queried the respective provinces about Amnesty International’s reports on treatment of persons in police custody and had found the breakdown to be split nearly evenly between charges brought by foreign nationals and German citizens. As for statistics on officers using their weapons and causing injury or death in 2001 and 2002, he said the 2001 figure had been the lowest since 1993 -- five deaths and 23 injuries.  In 2002, there had been six deaths and 28 injuries.

    ROLAND SIMON, assistant head of the Division of International and European Affairs, Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, agreed that efforts to achieve gender equality had not been entirely satisfactory. A new domestic violence act had been adopted. That was a civil protective law, which complemented police and jurisdictional laws aiming to shield victims. It had been very successful, he said, adding that statistics had shown that many women were availing themselves of its various provisions. Still, the existence of the law had not lessened the number of women seeking safety in shelters. That situation made it clear that greater vigilance was necessary.

    Response to Written Questions

    In response to a question about degrading treatment of older people in long-term care homes, Mr. SIMON said that, while the problem had not been entirely resolved, Germany had put conditions in place for a distinct improvement in the situation. Such homes were increasingly and systematically implementing quality management and quality assurance measures.

    Noting that inspection measures were being intensified, he said a new legal basis for inspection measures had been created and there was a clear basis for announced and unannounced inspection. The amended Homes Act had improved protection, and there were also plans to improve building standards for newly constructed homes by 2006 through the amendment of the relevant ordinance.

    On criminal prosecutions for neglect, he said that existing statistics did not give a breakdown relating to the offence. The Federal Government had commissioned a study on the subject of “Crimes and violence in elderly people’s lives”, and it was hoped that the results would throw further light on that area.

    Concerning incidents of ill-treatment by police officers, he said the coordination office had looked through all criminal proceedings brought against officers in the Berlin police force and recorded all exceptional cases. The disciplinary offices monitored all matters relating to suspicious bodily injury, and supervisors were informed of irregular occurrences in order to facilitate immediate disciplinary measures, including bans from the exercise of office, transfers and increased supervision.

    Regarding trafficking in human beings, he said that as far back as 1997, the Federal Government had set up a national working party on trafficking in women. Meeting regularly under the management of the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, it included representatives of the police, judiciary, labour and social authorities, as well as various non-governmental organizations.

    He said that in order to protect victims/witnesses, the working party had drafted a cooperation concept on the basis of which the majority of the criminal prosecution authorities in the Länder and the Federation cooperated closely with non-governmental, supranational or international agencies. Germany was strongly committed to preventing trafficking in human beings before the victims left their States of origin.

    Responding measures aimed at ensuring that women engaged in prostitution were not subject to contemporary forms of slavery, he said the Government was in the initial stages of gaining experience in working with the Prostitution Act, which would subsequently be analysed. The results would be presented in a report to be submitted to the German Bundestag (Parliament) at the beginning of 2005.

    Regarding broader powers adopted since 11 September 2001 to monitor and investigate persons suspected of involvement in terrorist activities, he said that in the upcoming summer, the Federal Ministry of Justice would present a comprehensive report on audio surveillance of residential premises.  In recent years, there had been an increase in the absolute figures for surveillance orders exclusively in the area of mobile phones.  However, that could be attributed quite extensively to the generally increasing number of mobile phone connections.

    He then turned to the removal of children to third jurisdictions for treatment contrary to the Covenant’s article 7, such as genital mutilation.  Parents who took their daughters to another country for circumcision were criminally liable to charges of joint perpetration –- together with the person who performed the circumcision –- or at the very least of incitement or aiding and abetting.  If there were indications that parents were planning a visit abroad in which their daughters were in danger of being subjected to genital mutilation or marriage against their will, there were provisions for the restriction of parental custody rights and the appropriate limitation on the parents’ right to determine the children’s place of residence.

    Experts’ Response

    Mr. SHEARER, expert from Australia, said Germany had been very frank about the treatment of the elderly people living in assisted-care facilities. Perhaps some of the new institutions that had been created could look into some of the incidents.

    Mr. WIERUSZEWSKI, expert from Poland, asked for further clarifications on Germany’s efforts to address problems related to trafficking in women. He also asked the delegation to respond to reports that the Roma ethnic group was disproportionately deported.

    MAURICE GLELE-AHANHANZO, expert from Benin, also asked for clarifications about the situation of the Roma. He also asked what was the status of third-generation Turks born in the country.  What was the country’s position on tolerance for gays and lesbians?

    RUTH WEDGEWOOD, expert from the United States, expressed concern that, although she was aware of the problems that many had with scientology, she was concerned that Germany had refused to classify it as a religion. She praised the leadership that Germany had shown on follow-up to the Durban World Conference on Racism, and she wondered if it was working to ensure that Israel, which had been excluded from regional groupings, as well as all Member States, had adequate representation in the international community.

    PRAFULLACHANDRA NATWARLAL BHGWATI, expert from India, associated himself with questions asked by Mr. Glèlè-Ahanhanzo.

    NISUKE ANDO, expert from Japan, wondered how the phenomenon of ageing was affecting the country’s initiatives regarding the care, supervision of and treatment for elderly persons, as well as the training of persons in those fields.

    Mr. RODLEY, expert from the United Kingdom, asked for clarification on whether the Federal Government, after years of calls from the civil society, could try harder to get statistics on treatment of persons in police custody. He also asked for clarification on whether the Government had considered reparations in cases where charges of torture or inhuman treatment were upheld.

    Germany’s Response                                                                                                                    

    Mr. STOLTENBERG said that there was a study under way on the human rights of elderly persons in an effort to formalize and enhance Germany’s action in that area.

    Mr. SIMON said that, indeed, Germany was ageing, and the Federal Government had emphasized family policies to modify legislation to help address the trend. The Government had also begun to actively promote job opportunities in nursing and elderly care.  On trafficking, he said there was a study under way to examine whether resources could be provided for victims.

    On the issue of gays and lesbians, he said that during the past 10 years much had changed and, even though a Registered Partnership Act had been passed, Germany was nevertheless aware that more needed to be done. On the Roma peoples, he said three anti-discrimination directives were nearing adoption. Germany’s legislation would be supplemented by European Union rules and regulations dealing with discrimination.

    On third-generation Turks, Mr. MENGEL said Germany could not close its eyes to social integration issues. For example, there were lower rates of employment and other serious socio-economic concerns facing those persons. It had become clear that just elaborating rules was not enough.

    He reiterated that Germany did not recognize scientology as a formal religion.

    As for the non-presence of Israel in the Western Group, PETER ROTHEN, head of Human Rights Department, Federal Foreign Office, said that was a decision that must be made by that group itself.  The European Union also had to make a decision in that regard. Israel had been admitted to the Western Group on certain occasions, but always with the clear understanding that it was without precedent to the so-called Western Human Rights Group, which operated in Geneva. Germany was not against its participation, but thus far there had been no consensus on the matter.

    Wrapping up the day’s discussion, ABDELFATTAH AMOR, Committee Chairman, praised the sure sense of seriousness and responsibility that had characterized Germany’s approach to the Committee’s questions. Overall, the meeting had been frank and open. Considerable, undeniable progress had been made since the submission of Germany’s last report, namely, with the establishment of an independent national Commission on Human Rights and the creation of a Human Rights Institute. He also praised the work done to stamp out racism and xenophobia and to uphold the tenets of the Durban Declaration.

    But much remained to be done, he said, stressing that human rights always required renewed attention. The issue of reservations to articles of the Covenant and its optional protocol should be addressed. A number of questions remained as to the operation of German armed forces acting abroad, particularly in Afghanistan. He said that Germany, as well as many other countries, must also be wary of a certain amount of intolerance towards some religions that had arisen in the wake of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States. It was not for the German State or any other State to say what was a religion and what was not. He urged the delegation to be wary of emerging threats to the country’s elderly persons, as well as women and minority groups.

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