German court says dragnet searches illegal
23 May 2006
BERLIN – Dragnet searches for terrorists in Germany, which targeted Arabs after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US, were unconstitutional, the country’s highest court ruled Tuesday.
The Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe, in a verdict on a case brought by a Moroccan student, said police searches using data bases such as university enrollment lists were only allowed in extreme cases.
A “general threat situation” – which was how judges described the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington – did not justify a dragnet search, the court said.
The ruling was aimed at a nationwide police search after the US attacks which targeted male students in Germany, aged 18 to 40 years old, who were Muslims and from Arab countries.
During the post-9/11 dragnet more than 8 million data records were checked by police in their search for possible terrorists.
Germany’s police union reacted with dismay to the high court’s ruling.
“This robs us of a means to prevent terrorist preparations in their earliest stages,” complained Konrad Freiberg, the head of the GdP police union.
This is the second time Germany’s highest court has ruled against state measures aimed at potential terrorists this year.
Last February, the court struck down a law which would have allowed German air force jets to shoot down any hijacked plane which terrorists were seeking to use for attacks similar to those in the US.
The court ruled it was unconstitutional for the state to order the death of innocent hostages on such an aircraft.
As a result, the German air force is now banned from shooting down hijacked aircraft – even if a passenger plane is clearly being used as a missile by terrorists.
The ruling fuelled security fears in advance of the football World Cup which Germany is hosting from June 9 to July 9.
“We cannot understand why the courts keep putting more and more limits on the ability of security forces to take action to protect the public from catastrophic attacks,” said Freiberg.
Subject: German news