Complicated story: The G20 summit and the basic law


The basic law’s guarantee of the right to freedom of Assembly is the Meeting of the heads of state and government in Hamburg in front of a serious test of endurance. A kind of inventory of Marcel Fürstenau.

Harbingers of the G20 protest in February during the meeting of foreign Ministers in Bonn

“All Germans have the right to assemble without notification or permission peacefully and unarmed.” Article 8 of the basic law begins. It follows the for the on Friday in Hamburg the beginning of the end of the G20 summit, the decisive sentence: “For assemblies under the open sky, this right may be restricted by law or pursuant to a law.” It is, therefore, not an absolute, unrestricted fundamental right. It begins with events outside of closed rooms, you have to be registered with the police.

Such as the freedom of Assembly should be implemented in practice, is regulated in the “law on assemblies and processions”. It consists of 33 paragraphs. The dispute over the supposedly correct application of the 1953 by the German Bundestag adopted and, most recently, in 2008, revised law has a long Tradition. Legal disputes are part of everyday life. Organizers of fight back are often subject to certain conditions, which may relate to the time of the meeting, as well as the Route on the demonstrates.

Controversial “General,” of the Hamburg police

But it can also be about the Form of protest – an aspect that is in Hamburg for weeks controversial. Because the police for the G20 summit, on 7./8. July in the framework of a “General ruling” on both days, an area of 38 square kilometers for meetings of any kind locked. The area extends from the airport North of the city up to the venue in the centre. Justification of this constraint with the “with a probability bordering on certainty” the expected blockages on the routes, which are intended for the G20 summit.

Protest on the Alster located in Hamburg last weekend – on 7./8. July the water is part of the exclusion zone

This could result from the point of view of the police, to an “immediate danger to life and limb for the state, guests, meeting participants, police forces and impartial third party”. At the same time, the end of the G20 would be at risk-summit. In their analysis of the threat situation, the police refers to “experiences from similar events,” such as the G8-summit in Heiligendamm 2007 and the Nato summit two years later in Baden-Württemberg, the Blockupy demonstrations in 2014 and the opening of the European Central Bank (ECB) in 2015, in Frankfurt am Main.

The tricky question of proportionality

The Berlin state rights activist, Christian Pestalozza considers restrictions on freedom of Assembly in principle, permitted, if they result from “Considerations of public safety and order”. The question of the proportionality of restrictions and not let themselves be flat with a Yes or no answer, says the Emeritus Professor in an interview with Deutsche Welle. So a large-scale blocking, as in Hamburg could be proportionate, “if the demonstrators and the expected number of participants there is sufficient space”.

Listen to Audio 10:38

Interview with civil rights activist Elke Steven

Of which may be from Elke Stevens point of view, not a speech. The fundamental rights officer in the Committee for fundamental rights and democracy accuses the city of Hamburg, “is warning for months against many of the violent Autonomous”. The voice is not and will “never used”, writes the sociologist on the phone to DW. Risk prevention is of course necessary, she adds. But the needed points on the “actual evidence” and not on presumptions based on “what could happen”.

Why courts decide often the opposite

Court disputes over the sequence of meetings during the G20 summit and the days leading up to it for weeks. The decisions of different levels – from the administrative to the constitutional court – could not be more different. So a planned Protest Camp was initially banned, but then it was approved. State law Pestalozza acknowledges that the different case-law is mainly for the layman is often difficult to understand. The sun in the sometimes difficult factual and legal situation.

Audio listen 16:40

State law, Christian Pestalozza about the limits of freedom of Assembly

In urgent procedure, that is, when, due to an upcoming event quickly decided must be, could not be “thoroughly tested”. Often it is a preliminary decision, which must if necessary be taken at night within an hour. “Then you can imagine that this is weighted differently,” says Pestalozza. The Federal constitutional court, he attested that in the course of the decades, “a very Assembly-friendly” decision. The judges in Karlsruhe would refer to the fact that freedom of Assembly is one of the basic fundamental rights of the basic law – a “core of democracy”.

Demonstrations against a planned nuclear power plant and its consequences

As a milestone in the jurisprudence of the so-called Brokdorf decision in 1985 in this context. During the planning and construction phase of the nuclear power plant North-West of Hamburg since 1976, again and again, partly violent demonstrations. At the beginning of 1981, the higher administrative court confirmed the prohibition of a multi-day demonstration. The inserted against a constitutional complaint from individuals and citizens ‘ initiatives, it was decided in their meaning.

Brokdorf in 1976: An initially peaceful Demonstration ended in violence between police and anti-nuclear campaigners

The decision can be read as a manual for dealing with foreseeable difficult, possibly violent assemblies. Thus, a trusting cooperation between the organizers of the protest called for actions and authorities. And there are high barriers to hazard prediction will apply. Guesses are not enough. As a positive example for a successful cooperation of the Bonn peace demonstration in 1981, with several hundred thousand participants.

Different interpretations of the Brokdorf decision

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Hamburg – a fortress of safety

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Hamburg – a fortress of safety

On this example, and the Brokdorf decision, Elke Steven refers to when she speaks about the upcoming G20 summit. “For weeks and months and is produced in a state of emergency,” says the civil rights activist who belongs to the authors-Team of the year published fundamental rights report. State law, Christian Pestalozza, however, the case law of the Federal constitutional court – regardless of the dispute, the Hamburg – sometimes too far. It bring to the article 8 of the basic law, the impression that the have a certain choice of Collecting the right, “when and where he wants to actually protest”. The Pestalozza considers to be an “Exaggeration”.