A virus called control: The suspension of constitutional rights in Germany

Is the suspension of constitutional rights for the whole of society to counter the new corona virus justified? The freedom to assemble without registration or permission under Article 8 of the German Constitution has been replaced since 20 March by a complete ban with the reservation of permission. Health authorities now have the final say on demonstrations or rallies in accordance with the „SARS-CoV-2 containment regulations“.

For one month, most of the Federal States have prohibited protests in any form, including bicycle demonstrations and autocorsos. The public medical officers also did not care if registrants promised to respect distance rules and to wear face masks. Last week, the highest German court clarified on 15 April that this is not proportionate. The complainant was the Saasen Projektwerkstatt in Hesse, whose several-day assembly „Strengthen health instead of weakening constitutional rights“ was initially prohibited by the city of Giessen. Complaints before the Administrative Court and the Hessian Higher Administrative Court were not met; it was only the Federal Constitutional Court that returned to the idea of freedom of assembly protected by the constitution. The Giessen city administration was ordered to consider the individual application and to approve at least a small protest subject to conditions. The ruling was a breakthrough and now forces authorities nationwide to rethink, even large rallies are now possible again. Today, hundreds were able to demonstrate in Hamburg with a human chain against the EU refugee policy.

With the Corona regulations, the German states also suspend the freedom of movement according to Article 11 of the German Constitution. For example, Saxony or Bavaria impose extremely severe restrictions on leaving a residence. To combat the corona virus, also all Schengen borders are again being closed and controlled. Again, this is not always proportionate. Why should it be safe to drive from Heinsberg (a virus epicenter) to Cologne, while travel from Kaiserslautern to Metz or in the „European City“ from Görlitz to Zgorzelec remains prohibited? The freedom of movement once praised as the greatest achievement of the European Union is history for the time being.The virus is becoming the pretext for a new nation-state way of thinking, and the left must fight against this too.

Just under six weeks ago the „lockdown“ began, and for two weeks now there is a very hesitant release. It is unclear, however, if and when the restrictions on constitutional rights will be fully withdrawn. The police and the public order offices will probably emerge stronger from the corona crisis, their measures to enforce local regulations will lead to getting used to monitoring and controlling everyday activities. In some towns and communities, the fight against the corona virus has been a door-opener for new forms of repression, and there the police are pursuing compliance with general orders, for example with video surveillance and drones. Others hire private security services to detect and caution congregations of more then two people. The German Armed Forces also have rifles at the ready with 7,500 soldiers for „protection“ and 600 military police. Although no successful request by local councils for military assistance is known to date, according to which the soldiers would exercise police powers. Nevertheless, the mere idea of mobilizing the army to guard supermarkets or refugee shelters is a declaration of war on leftist politics.

Autor: Matthias Monroy

Knowledge worker, activist, editor of the German civil rights journal Bürgerrechte & Polizei/CILIP.