German police are still brutal, says Amnesty

Picture the scene: two policemen enter a railway cafe somewhere in Europe, pick on two black men sipping beer in the corner who within minutes are lying on the floor covered in bruises after being beaten and repeatedly kicked in the stomach.

Such an event, documented in Amnesty International's latest report, took place on 23 February 1996 in Dusseldorf, Germany's fashion capital. Not so unique in itself, except that the incident was witnessed by 13 members of a religious charity, and still no action was taken against the policemen involved. Five weeks after the witnesses filed a formal complaint, the Dusseldorf Public Prosecutor's office closed the investigation because it had been "unable to identify" the officers in question.

It was two years ago that the human rights organisation produced its first damning indictment of police brutality in Germany. The sad conclusion of the latest update is that the authorities have done little in all that time to protect the public from thugs in uniforms.

"Since 1995 more than 40 fresh reports of ill-treatment have been received by Amnesty International, confirming the organisation's central conclusion in its May 1995 report that cases of alleged police ill-treatment are not isolated incidents, but amount to a clear pattern of abuse," states the document, published today. "In many instances the alleged ill-treatment appears to have been racially motivated."

Despite promised improvement, investigations into police brutality were still running into brick walls. Mustafa K, a naturalised Turk, offended the law by refusing to let police officers search his Berlin home without a warrant. Between bouts of racist abuse, he was thrown onto the floor, and kicked in his head and body, then worked over again in the police van.

That was in July 1996. Since then, the prosecutor's office has closed the investigation into police mistreatment because of a "lack of neutral witnesses".Mustafa K has been charged with resisting arrest.