Amnesty accuses German police of brutality against foreigners

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The Independent Online

The German police have been accused of ill treating scores of mainly foreign citizens and using disproportionate violence against those they detained in a report published yesterday by the human rights organisation Amnesty International.

The 77-page document, entitled "Back in the spotlight - allegations of police ill-treatment and excessive use of force in Germany", highlighted 20 cases of police brutality investigated by the organisation over the past two years.

The report cited at least 12 cases of detainees being punched, kicked and racially abused by police, one incident in which a man died in hospital as a result of a beating sustained in custody, and several cases of unarmed individuals being shot dead by police.

Barbara Lochbihler, the general secretary of Amnesty's German branch, said: "The 20 cases were those specifically investigated, but there were many other incidents drawn to our attention. A significant proportion of allegations have continued to come from foreign nationals and members of ethnic minorities in Germany."

Amnesty singled out Germany for failing to set up an independent complaints body to monitor cases of police violence. It criticised the country's legal authorities for habitually investigating such incidents in a "reluctant and at times partisan" fashion, and noted that the standard reaction of police to complaints against them was to bring legal action against the complainant.

"The seriousness of certain reports combined with the severity of the injuries sustained indicate that the German authorities must redouble their efforts in this area and undertake all possible steps to prevent and penalise such occurrences," the report said.

The most serious incidents of police brutality contained in the document included the case of a 30-year-old Sudanese asylum-seeker who suffocated on an aircraft during an attempt to expel him from Germany. The man is thought have died as a result of restraints placed on him, including "adhesive tape, a helmet and a five-metre long rope". The report cited a statement by border police which warned that tough measures used to restrain African asylum-seekers could prove ineffective "because African citizens display a marked insensitivity to pain".

In another well-documented case, a 31-year-old mentally ill German man died after being repeatedly kicked by a "reception committee" of six police officers while lying handcuffed on the floor of a Cologne police station. He had been arrested after a noisy argument with his mother.

The document also citedincidents in which police used unprovoked violence and racist abuse against foreigners. In one case a Turkish taxi driver was arrested, beaten and flung handcuffed against the wall of a cell by his hair for illegally parking his taxi next to a hot dog stand in Frankfurt.

In another case, police shot dead a 30-year-old German in the back with "man-stopping" ammunition after he bent down to pick up a cobblestone which he apparently intended to throw at an officer.

Amnesty noted that in all but one of the 20 incidents contained in its report, none of the police officers concerned had been sentenced by the courts for their actions. Ms Lochbihler said: "We do not know the full extent of police brutality, because the German authorities do not keep a full record of the statistics. We consider this to be a scandal."