German top court strikes down preventive detention rules
Germany's top court Wednesday struck down current preventive detention rules as "unconstitutional" following earlier decisions by the European Court of Human Rights condemning German practices.
The ruling by the Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe gives parliament until May 2013 to ensure that criminals considered especially dangerous can only be held on grounds of mental health once their prison sentence has expired.
Until now, very serious offenders, including repeat sex offenders, could be kept in so-called additional preventive detention once their original sentence had been served if their release was considered a threat to the public.
Prisoners currently held under these terms will however remain in prison pending the adoption of new legislation, the court said.
Some 70 cases involving long-held prisoners whose preventive detention was originally limited to 10 years will nevetheless have to be settled before the end of the year, the court added.
The new rules will have to ensure that dangerous prisoners are given therapy with a view to their release and ensure that those who are not released are treated differently from normal prisoners.
The European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg last year condemned Germany's preventive detention system.
It later ordered Berlin to pay compensation to a prisoner held in preventive detention for nearly 20 years on charges relating to attempted murder, robbery, aggravated robbery, serious assaults and blackmail.
© 2011 AFP