Germany 'civic freedoms' downgraded over climate change, pro-Palestine repression

Germany 'civic freedoms' downgraded over climate change, pro-Palestine repression
The report by monitor Civicus details the level of 'civic freedoms' globally each year, including reports on the state of human rights in Europe.
2 min read
09 December, 2023
According to the report German authorities have permitted the police to conduct a number of repressive actions including phone surveillance and restricting protests [Photo by Ying Tang/NurPhoto via Getty Images]

The state of civic space in Germany has been downgraded from 'open' to 'narrowed' following repression against climate and pro-Palestine activists, according to a report published on Wednesday.

The report, published by Civicus and titled 'People Power Under Attack 2023', details repressive action by German authorities in 2023, including the raiding of homes and surveillance of communications, as well as the placement of restrictions on protest.

Most notable example in the report is that of climate activist group Last Generation, who's members had homes raided, bank accounts seized, as well as its website blocked in response to non-violent protests conducted by the group.

The report also noted that the public prosecutor's office of Munich admitted to using surveillance against the group's members. The group's members are now being charged with forming a criminal organisation due to their protest activity.

Last Generation said of the report that it "means that Germany's government does not fully protect the freedom of expression, assembly and association of its citizens".

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Likewise, the report also cited restriction of pro-Palestinian protests, with bans in Berlin and Frankfurt being notable cases, as well as police violence at a protest in Neukolln in Berlin in October.

In Berlin, authorities have also banned "demonstrative behaviour or expression of opinion" in support of Hamas which, according to authorities include pro-Palestinian symbols.

In a statement following the publication of the report Tara Petrovic, Civicus Monitor's Europe and Central Asia researcher stated that "Germany used to be one of the most free countries in Europe. Now Germany is leading the pack in the EU-wide crackdown on climate activism".

She added that "the German authorities' actions against activists exercising legitimate rights to association and peaceful assembly are not conducive to a democratic state," adding that they weren't "aligned with the country's international obligations to protect civic freedoms, either".

Although German restrictions on pro-Palestinian sentiment have risen since the start of the Gaza war, Germany has a history of restricting pro-Palestinian protest and symbols and Palestinian or pro-Palestinian speakers.

As well as Germany the report also noted how other European countries had further restricted their civic space to climate change and pro-Palestine activists, including in France and the UK.

This comes as public pressure in Western countries mounts over Israel's campaign in Gaza, which has killed 17,487 people, including 7,729 children, according to health authorities in Gaza.