Justice Minister Lambrecht on Corona measures

Christine Lambrecht (SPD), Federal Minister of Justice, in Berlin in June
Image: dpa

To protect against the corona pandemic, politics also had to restrict basic rights, says Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht. The SPD politician defends upload filters on the Internet and tougher sanctions for companies.

Minister Lambrecht, the federal and state governments have decided on strict requirements in the fight against Corona, which are implemented differently from state to state. Many would like to see greater uniformity. They also?

Corinna Budras

I can understand the desire for uniform regulations. Federalism, however, offers us the opportunity to respond to the very different pandemic situations in the individual federal states in a graduated and appropriate manner. It is very important that proportionality is maintained in all measures. So we have come through the Corona crisis relatively well. All measures taken serve the sole purpose of upholding the basic right to life and physical integrity. This fundamental right also gives us protection obligations, and we let ourselves be guided by them. In order to achieve this goal, other basic rights had to be restricted. But many measures have been upheld by the courts.


Federal government initiates reform of insolvency law

Dhe federal government has launched a comprehensive reform of insolvency law. The federal cabinet passed a corresponding draft law by Federal Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD) on Wednesday. Companies that got into difficulties through no fault of their own during the Corona crisis should also benefit from this.

Among other things, the draft provides for the introduction of a legal framework for restructuring, with which, according to the Ministry of Justice, bankruptcies can be averted. For companies affected by the pandemic, the temporarily suspended obligation to file for insolvency will apply again from January 1, 2021. For them, however, a “relaxed standard” will be used as the basis for the overindebtedness test, “which takes into account the current forecast uncertainties,” explained the Ministry of Justice.

Lambrecht explained that “companies that have stumbled through no fault of their own due to the Covid-19 pandemic but have a convincing business model” would benefit from the innovations. “In particular, the new legal framework opens up the possibility for affected companies to terminate onerous contracts if the other contractual partner refuses to agree to the adjustment or termination and otherwise bankruptcy threatens.”

Restructuring concept without bankruptcy proceedings

At the same time, the reform aims at a “far-reaching development of the current restructuring and insolvency law”. “In an international comparison, we are thus further expanding our prominent position among the most powerful insolvency regulations,” explained Lambrecht. “Companies that convince a majority of their creditors with a solid plan of their reorganization perspective can in future implement their reorganization concept without insolvency proceedings.”

The deputy FDP parliamentary group chairman Stephan Thomae criticized, however, that Lambrecht’s draft law was too late. For too long, the grand coalition limited itself to suspending the obligation to file for insolvency and thus “wasted valuable time”. As a result, “a veritable wave of insolvency-ready companies has formed”.

The Deutsche Bundesbank warned on Tuesday that bankruptcies in the corporate sector could “increase noticeably” after the turn of the year; more than 6000 cases are possible in the first quarter.


Attack on Oktoberfest: Compensation 40 years later

Decades after the Oktoberfest attack, the victims should still be compensated: with 1.2 million euros. A victim lawyer thinks this is not enough.

Oktoberfest attack in Munich in 1980 – corpses are removed in coffins Photo: Werek / image

BERLIN / MUNICH taz | The bomb detonated on September 26, 1980 at 10:19 p.m. at the entrance to the Munich Oktoberfest. It killed 13 people, including the right-wing extremist Gundolf Köhler, and injured another 211. It is the most serious right-wing terrorist attack in the Federal Republic to date. And many victims continue to suffer from the act. Now they are being compensated.

Federal Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht announced on Wednesday that those affected – 40 years after the attack – should receive “support payments” totaling 1.2 million euros. The attack remains “a deep turning point in post-war history,” said the SPD politician, with injuries to this day. The aim of the compensation is to “send a late but important sign of solidarity with those affected by this devastating attack”. The state must “be more there for those affected by right-wing extremism, racism and hatred”.

The fund is to be financed by the federal government and the Free State of Bavaria at EUR 500,000 each, plus EUR 200,000 from the city of Munich. The federal government had approved the post on Wednesday in its draft for the federal budget 2021. The Bavarian cabinet had already decided its part on Tuesday. In Munich, the city council is still pending a resolution.

Bavaria’s Minister of Social Affairs, Carolina Trautner (CSU), also called the fund a “sign against right-wing extremism”. “It is indescribable how much suffering the attack on the Munich Oktoberfest caused.” For Munich’s Lord Mayor Dieter Reiter (SPD), the joint fund comes “much too late”, but it shows “that all political levels are willing To give people of this incredibly cruel right-wing terrorist attack the attention and financial support they have long deserved ”.

Reassessment of the attack

The compensation comes about because the federal prosecutor’s office reassessed the attack in July. For almost six years, the authority had reopened the investigation after the single perpetrator thesis was repeatedly questioned and new indications of accomplices were found. The search for clues was unsuccessful – the federal prosecutor’s office now officially classified the act as right-wing extremist for the first time. The conviction of the assassin and his relevant contacts to the right-wing extremist military sports group Hoffmann speak for this.

The victims had long fought for this recognition as a right-wing extremist act. Shortly after the reclassification in July 2020, Lambrecht’s Ministry announced compensation from the federal government. Now, shortly before the 40th anniversary of the assassination, this is being redeemed. The federal government, Bavaria and the city of Munich had struggled to the last about what the fund should look like and how it should reach the victims. Reiter was satisfied with the solution on Wednesday: It was Munich’s claim to “help the survivors as unbureaucratically as possible”.

Shortly after the attack, the Free State paid the injured person 500,000 DM as a kind of compensation for pain and suffering. From 1982 the city of Munich raised one million DM as emergency aid for the victims, and in the following year another 200,000 DM, also collected with donations. From 2018, the city paid a further 100,000 euros to finance treatment costs for those affected that were not paid by the pension offices. However, these payments were not considered official compensation.

Victims were “treated shabbily”

The Munich lawyer Werner Dietrich, who represents 16 victims of the attack, had long been demanding compensation from the federal government. According to his information, many of those affected never received the first compensation for pain and suffering from 1980. Dietrich was ambivalent about the current fund. “It is a success and great progress that the long stories of suffering of those affected are finally recognized,” he told the taz. Some of the victims had been “treated rather shabbily” by the authorities in the past. A “quick and unbureaucratic” payment is now decisive.

At the same time, Dietrich considers the sum of 1.2 million euros to be too low. The lawyer assumes there are still almost 100 victims of the attack who, according to his opinion, should be paid between 30,000 and 100,000 euros depending on the severity of the injury. The 1.2 million euros would not be enough for that. It would therefore have made more sense to have a “breathing upper limit” for the compensation, said Dietrich.

The victims of the attack will be remembered with a memorial ceremony on Saturday in Munich. In addition to survivors, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Bavaria’s Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) should also speak there. At the same time, a new documentation site is to be opened for the attack.


Law against hate speech online: NetzDG did not lead to overblocking

For three years now, Facebook and other networks have been subject to stricter deletion requirements. Critics’ fears have not yet materialized.

Unfortunately, hate postings cannot be removed that easily Photo: imagebroker / imago

FREIBURG taz | Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD) is satisfied. “We see significant improvements in the way social networks deal with user complaints about criminal content.” On Wednesday, Lambrecht presented the evaluation of the NetzDG passed in 2017, which stipulates that hate postings should be deleted quickly. There is also no evidence of “over-blocking”, that is, for the systematic deletion of controversial but legitimate content, said the minister.

Social networks like Facebook have been obliged since 2007 to “immediately” delete criminal content after being notified. In practice, however, user complaints were largely ignored, as arguments and conflicts are good for the business of the mostly advertising-financed networks.

In 2017, the Bundestag therefore passed the NetzDG (Act to Improve Legal Enforcement in Social Networks), which obliges social media to delete criminal hate postings in obvious cases within 24 hours. If efficient complaint management is not introduced, fines of up to 50 million euros have been threatened since then.

At the time, there were violent protests against the law, including from journalists’ associations. They feared that, for fear of fines, the networks would in future delete almost automatically every controversial statement that someone complains about. This over-blocking would lead to a massive restriction of freedom of expression on the Internet, so the concern.

No fines so far

In order to appease the critics, the Bundestag decided to evaluate the NetzDG after three years. The 49-page evaluation report of the federal government is now available, which is essentially based on a 160-page report by the Berlin law professor Martin Eifert.

The ministry then found that complaint management had improved significantly. As far as postings were deleted, this was done in 83 percent of the cases within 24 hours.

According to the evaluation report, there are no indications of the systematic deletion of postings that are covered by the freedom of expression. The overviews of the networks show that on average less than twenty percent of the complaints led to a deletion. There can be no question of overly cautious “waving through” the complaints. Insofar as in individual cases courts complained about an unjustified deletion, these were cases in which the networks assumed a violation of their internal standards.

The alleged Damocles sword of the million dollar fines was not used either. There were 1352 complaints about postings at the Federal Office of Justice that were not deleted despite a notice. However, in no single case has the Federal Office assumed a systemic failure of the notification management of the networks and therefore did not impose a single corresponding fine.

Aggravation in prospect

Justice Minister Lambrecht wants to continue to take the risk of overblocking seriously and therefore introduce a “counter-presentation procedure”. If networks delete a posting as unlawful, but the author considers it legal, he should be able to ask the respective network to review it – before filing a legal action (with a risk of costs).

Lambrecht also rated the obligation introduced by the NetzDG to create semi-annual transparency reports on the handling of complaints as a success. So far there have been reports from Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Google+, Soundcloud, Jodel, Instagram, Reddit and Tiktok. While Facebook only lists a few thousand NetzDG complaints per year, there are a few hundred thousand on Youtube and Twitter.

The reason for this glaring gap is that Facebook pretty much hid the NetzDG reporting channel so that user complaints were predominantly directed to the internal flagging process. However, German law does not apply there, but the internal community standards of Facebook. The Federal Office of Justice therefore imposed a fine of two million euros on Facebook in the summer of 2019.

Independent of the evaluation, the Bundestag decided in June to tighten the NetzDG considerably. The network operators are soon obliged not only to delete reported criminal postings, but also to report them to the Federal Criminal Police Office in order to ensure that the agitators are prosecuted. The reporting requirement is expected to come into force in August 2021.

The new “counter-presentation procedure” is then expected to be resolved in a further law at the end of this year.


Agriculture Future Commission: A little animal welfare

EThere are not many people who put up posters in front of the Federal Chancellery in Berlin on Monday morning. But what the demonstrators have in common: They are young and concerned. “It’s about our future”, the youth organization of the nature conservation association BUND wrote in green letters on brown cardboard. And also what is part of their view: healthy soils, happy animals and locally produced food. In addition, the Campact activists lift a rubber pig filled with air into the air: “Stop the cheap meat system”, they demand. “We realize that we cannot save the world,” says one participant. But they definitely want to set an example at the beginning of this session.

Julia Löhr

It is the Commission of High Expectations that started its work on Monday in Berlin. It is called the Agriculture Commission for the Future, and it is supposed to accomplish the feat of turning the diverse interests of farmers, climate protectors and consumers into a strategy. The schedule already shows how complicated this is. Nine months have passed since Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) announced the commission after weeks of protests by farmers across Germany, including against stricter fertilizer regulations. It will take almost as long before the commission will make its recommendations: the time should be in the early summer of 2021 – when, presumably, hardly anything is being implemented, the federal election campaign is in the hot phase.

40 cents per kilogram of meat

The commission has 32 members. The Ministry of Agriculture and the Environment are also at the table, as are farmers’, nature conservation and consumer associations. The chairman selected was someone who should exude the greatest possible degree of neutrality: the former President of the German Research Foundation, the German studies specialist Peter Strohschneider. At the beginning of the meeting, none of the participants wanted to hit the stakes, the statements remained vague. Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner (CDU) would like an “economically successful and socially acceptable agriculture”, a “social contract for sustainable agriculture” Environment Minister Svenja Schulze (SPD). The working group for rural agriculture is also hoping for a social contract – in this case “responsible and courageous”.

But what exactly should it say? One of the most pressing questions is how to proceed in the meat industry. The ban on work contracts has already been initiated by the grand coalition after the corona outbreaks at Tönnies & Co. It becomes more difficult with the question of how the animals should fare better. It is clear that consumers will in future pay an animal welfare tax on animal products such as meat, milk, butter and cheese. At the beginning of the year, an expert commission headed by the former Agriculture Minister Jochen Borchert (CDU) proposed 40 cents per kilogram of meat. Before the summer break, the Bundestag commissioned Klöckner to implement the recommendations.

Closely linked to this is the question of the state animal welfare label. At least for the Germans’ favorite type of meat, pork, that’s theoretically ready. But while Klöckner argues that without an EU-wide regulation – which is still a long way off – it can only encourage manufacturers and retailers to use the label, the SPD has so far insisted on a mandatory solution. There is also a lively back and forth between the parties on the question of whether advertising with cheap meat prices should be banned. Klöckner wants that, but knows how tricky it is legally. Your attempt to delegate the matter to Federal Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD), however, did not work. Klöckner could regulate that himself in the meat law, countered Lambrecht.

There is also a need for discussion about the EU’s multi-billion dollar agricultural subsidies. How much a farmer gets is currently based primarily on the area of ​​his farm and less on what he does to protect the climate and species. Most farmers want to stick to this system, while conservationists are calling for a radical restructuring, ideally linking all payments to environmental criteria. The fact that the EU’s plans provide for the individual member states to have more leeway as to which criteria they use to pay out the money does not make things any easier. If Germany were to set rather strict requirements for its farmers, but countries like France and Poland would not, there would be a risk of environmental standards dumping, warns Klöckner. The price-conscious German consumer could then take advantage of the cheaper produced goods from abroad – exactly the opposite of what the federal government actually wants to achieve.

On Monday, the Minister of Agriculture agreed that consumers should pay higher prices. “We have to realize that higher standards cost money, and that cannot be borne by family farms in agriculture alone,” said Klöckner. The example of killing chicks shows that even cents have been struggled for for years. Around 45 million male chicks are killed in Germany every year because they are useless for agriculture. This can be prevented with a sex test in the egg. The cost per egg: one to two cents. So far, eggs from such operations in supermarkets have been an exception, in future everyone should use the process – or raise the male chicks as well. This Wednesday, Klöckner wants to bring a corresponding draft law in the cabinet. But those who had hoped for quick changes will be disappointed: the chick killing will not actually end until the end of 2021.


Violence against children: what does “sexual violence” mean?

A draft law by the Ministry of Justice wants to replace the term “sexual abuse”. However, the proposal has met with criticism.

Federal Justice Minister Lambrecht wants to enforce tougher penalties for child abuse Photo: Kay Nietfeld / Reuters

Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD) not only wants to punish the sexual abuse of children more severely, but also wants to “brand” them conceptually. In future, the headings of the paragraphs of five individual offenses will each refer to “sexual violence against children”. This emerges from a draft law of the Ministry of Justice, which the taz has before.

The term “sexual abuse” was previously used in the Criminal Code when a dependency relationship was exploited, not only in children but also, for example, in prison or in nursing homes. With children under the age of 14, any sexual act is taboo, regardless of whether it is forced or “voluntary”.

In cases involving children, Lambrecht now generally wants to replace the term “sexual abuse” with “sexual violence”. In this way, the injustice of the deeds should be “more clearly defined”, according to the draft law. Lambrecht wants to “brand” the deeds with the new term.

In the taz interview, law professor Tatjana Hörnle criticized Lambrecht’s plan. The new terminology is “downright misleading”, since sexual abuse does not depend on the use of violence in the colloquial or legal sense, explained Germany’s leading sex criminal. “Anyone who writes ‘violence’ in the headline here may give manipulative perpetrators the feeling that they are not meant,” says Hörnle.

The draft provides for more severe penalties

The present draft law, however, maintains the irritating ambiguity. Even if the headline mentions “sexualized violence”, the fact remains that “it does not depend on the use of force or the threat of violence”, says the justification for the draft. The contradiction becomes particularly clear with the new paragraph 176a. “Sexual violence against children without physical contact with the child” is intended as the heading here.

In terms of content, the paragraph primarily deals with the tightening of penalties. In principle, all sexual abuse should be classified as a “crime” – which means a minimum sentence of one year. The suspension on probation remains possible, but proceedings can no longer be closed against a fine. Even a penalty order is no longer possible, that is, a court hearing must always take place, which Lambrecht expects to have a “lasting impression” on the perpetrators.

However, there are supposed to be two exceptions to the classification as a crime. For acts “without physical contact”, such as showing pornographic pictures, the minimum sentence should be six months. And if the act is consensual and there is only a small difference in age and degree of maturity “between offender and child”, the act should even go unpunished.

Specifically, it is about a 14-year-old girl (perpetrator) and a 13-year-old boy (child) exchange caresses. According to the reasoning, “freedom for sexual self-testing with people of almost the same age” should be ensured. If there is sexual intercourse, the exception no longer applies.


CDU social wing calls for a ban on adult hotels

Dhe social wing of the CDU calls for a ban on hotels that prevent children and young people from entering. “I think that pure adult hotels should be banned,” said the deputy CDA chairman Alexander Krauss the newspapers of the Funke media group (Saturday). Children are apparently the only group in Germany that can be discriminated against. “A hotel that excludes disabled people, black people or homosexuals is justifiably inconceivable. This is only allowed with children. “

Krauss emphasized that he would like Federal Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD) to “do the same work against discrimination against families as is shown by all other small groups”. From his point of view, so-called adult hotels are “anti-social”. A society that excludes children will have no future.

The German Family Association welcomed the move. “It must not become a matter of course that children and thus families are excluded,” said managing director Sebastian Heimann the Funke-Blätter. The chairman of the children’s commission in the Bundestag, Norbert Müller (left), criticized adult hotels as “an expression of a child-hostile attitude that is spreading more and more in our society”.

The German Hotel and Restaurant Association, however, defended adult hotels. “We observe that some hoteliers specialize in the target group of adult guests.” Concepts that “consistently orientate themselves towards the wishes of the target group are successful”. So-called adults-only hotels could be seen as such a specialization. A general trend “towards child-free hotels” cannot be seen, however.


According to the canceled racial profiling study: Seehofer gets contraindications

Interior Minister Seehofer has canceled a study on racial profiling. Now there is criticism, also from the government.

Another turning point: Horst Seehofer no longer wants to investigate racial profiling Photo: Carsten Koall, dpa

BERLIN taz | It was a short sentence, but he also employed an authority in Strasbourg on Monday. Federal Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer (CSU) told his spokesman at the weekend that he did not see any need for a planned study on racial profiling by the police. It sounded very different three weeks ago. And in Strasbourg, or more precisely by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), exactly such a study was recently requested by Germany.

A spokeswoman for the Council of Europe, to which ECRI reports, became clear on Monday: The study on racial profiling, ie police controls based on purely external characteristics, had been recommended for “priority implementation” in Germany. The implementation will also be checked by March 2022 at the latest. The aim of the study is to take measures “that eliminate racial profiling and prevent it in the future,” said the spokeswoman for taz. She referred to other countries, such as the Netherlands, which have already carried out such studies. The ECRI report on Germany was published in March and examined “racism and intolerance” in Germany.

Pressure on Seehofer is now coming from the government and the countries. Federal Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD) insisted on the study on Monday. “It would be important that we could do this study,” she told ARD. She’ll talk to Seehofer about it again. Thuringia’s interior minister Georg Maier (SPD), currently chairman of the interior ministerial conference, also supported the study. “I advocate objectifying the discussion at this point. We must not ignore the public perception of discriminatory misconduct in the police, ”said Maier zu taz. “This is important for trust in the police.”

Study announced in early June

At the beginning of June, Seehofer’s ministry announced the study on racial profiling together with the Ministry of Justice. A spokesman said at the time that the conceptual development was in progress. Lambrecht’s ministry praised the study as “an important step to gain sound knowledge of the phenomenon and to discuss possible countermeasures based on it”.

At the weekend, however, Seehofer received the announcement again – and garnered a lack of understanding across party lines. Racist controls in the police would not be tolerated and would not take place, a spokesman for Seehofer confirmed on Monday. In the event of individual misconduct, one must investigate this. Seehofer, however, is working “with all his might” against right-wing extremism, including in the police. The spokesman referred to the federal government’s package of measures against right-wing extremism, which was decided in autumn. This had to be worked through for the time being before there were new measures such as a study. The spokesman claimed that this had already been planned, was an “imprecise” statement.

It is, however, more likely that after the recent debate about racism in the police, Seehofer simply did not want to stir up any further suspicion against the police. However, a factual situation in this field would be urgently needed. Because to this day there are almost no studies on racial profiling, which – documented by numerous reports of those affected – exist indisputably.

“Strong evidence”

Also in the ECRI report from March it says clearly about the German police: “Even if there is strong evidence for a pronounced racial profiling, many police stations and representatives are not aware of it or deny its existence.” One of the few is referred to Surveys, an EU study from 2017, in which 34 percent of the people with an African background said they had been stopped by the police in the five years before the survey. 14 percent believed that this was done for racist reasons.

Lambrecht said of the study that it was “not at all about making anyone suspicious”. Rather, the aim is “simply to determine the state of play and to know where we are and how we can take countermeasures”. When asked whether her house would also carry out the study alone, it was said that the Interior Ministry was responsible.

Thuringian Interior Minister insists on study

However, the federal states are also considered – because the federal government would only investigate the federal police anyway. In fact, even parts of the police unions were open to such a study. Now Thuringian Georg Maier is leading the way. The police are at the center of society, the SPD man told the taz. “As the bearer of the monopoly on violence, it must also be a role model in a special way and also face criticism.” Extremism and racism in the police would not be tolerated. “I see a study as requested by the police unions as a step towards more transparency and openness,” said Maier. But this must be designed “fairly” and with the participation of the unions. At the same time, Maier advocates an analysis of the increased violence against police officers.

Bernhard Franke, head of the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency, also pleads for an investigation “The Federal Minister of the Interior misses an important opportunity to evaluate relevant cases in the police and to conduct basic research,” he said on Monday. The fact that racial profiling does not exist and therefore does not need to be researched is “not very valid”. There is already a lack of nationwide complaint structures, such as independent police officers. Franke offered that his house could also commission the study – if the federal government made the funds available and “full access” to the police in the federal and state governments was granted.