An Editorial Comment by Otto Diederichs
Following experiences gained in the USA and on the basis of the Council of Europe”s recommendation on ”Freedom of Information and the Public access to Government Documents”, the ”Humanist Union”, one of the oldest Ger-man civil liberties groups, started its campaign for access rights in 1980. 16 years later the struggle for freedom of information and access to personal files and data has made only littleprogress in the FRG.
Legislative initiatives by green parliamentary groups in different federal states were either frustated or withdrawn. This edition of CILIP presents the currant legal and practical situation with a special focus on access to police and security information. And something completely new: Beginning with this issue CILIP is available via Internet. Step by step we will also intend to make all back issues available. Our Internet adress is: http://www.ipn.de/cilip
The Right of Disclosure and Access to Information – Basic Considerations by Peter Schaar and Otto Diederichs
With the almost universal application of information and communication technology an age-old demand of the civil rights movement becomes more urgent than ever: The right of free access to information hold by public and government agencies. It implies in essence that the principle of secrety would be replaced by the principle of publicity.
The right of free access to government files and data, in the FRG first demanded by the ”Humanist Union” in 1980, by no means is contradictory to the right of privacy and data protection – an argument, always stressed when authorities want to keep their business in the darkness. The article provides a general review of the current debate and lists the arguments for encompassing freedom of information legislation.
Proposals for a general ”Freedom of Information Act” presented by the Green Party by Lena Schraut
The West-Berlin ”Alternative List” was the first Green Party parliamentary group to present a Bill for a Right of Access to general government information in a German federal state, an attempt which was frustrated by the early end of the red-green government in 1990. A similar attempt by the Brandenburg ”Bündnis 90” suffered the same fate in 1994. After the Hamburg ”Green Party”s” proposal was defeated by the parliamentary majority, the green groups stopped their legislation efforts. Despite the fact that nearly all Green groups in other federal states have prepared similar drafts, these were not presented. The author, who has co-authored several of these draft proposals, presents a review of theirmost important elements.
Freedom of Information in Regard to Public Administrations by Peter Schaar
A look across national borders reveals the bitter truth: Concerning freedom of information in Europe, the UK and Germany are the rear end. Both countries lack constitutional or other legal guarantees for unrestricted access to information hold by public administrations. And this despite the fact, that freedom of information in other societies proves to be generally accepted and practicable. An international survey of the current practical and legal situationprovided by Hamburg”s ”Vice Data Protection Commissioner”.
Obtaining Access to Files held by Police and Security Services by Otto Diederichs
All german laws on police and security services – on federal as well as on state level – include articles which, albeit with different degrees of restriction, formally grant a right of access to files and data concerning one”s own person. Nevertheless, the practical realization of this right is difficult if not impossible. The article also contains specific suggestions for making use of such rights.
Rights of access to dossiers and data hold by the Berlin police by Claudia Schmid
The 1983 decision of the German ”Federal Constitutional Court” on the census obliged federal and state legislators to enact new regulations for access to personal data, including those hold by police and other so called security agencies. It took years of parliamentary debate to introduce these regulations in perspective data protection laws. The ”Berlin Data Protection Act” 1990 thus abolished all previous blanket restriction clauses. According to this law, both general public administrations as well as the police are obliged to individually justify any restriction of access in each single case. In the meantime, however, this generous and liberal right of accesslegislation has been undermined by numerous special legislations as for instance theBerlin police code.
The author, Berlin”s ”Vice Data Protection Commissioner”, provides a survey of current practice and sets forth specific demands.
The Difficulties of Access to Security Services” Files by Otto Diederichs
Early in the 70”s Ms. Gabriele W. attracted the attention of German security services for the first time: Back then still a juvenile, she was a member of the ”Red Aid Bonn”. Classifed as terrorist support groups, those then numerous non-aligned organizations, committed to providing aid and councelling to prisoners, were subjected to observation of both the ”Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution” (BfV – domestic security service) as well as the political divisions of the police forces.
When in 1980 Ms. W. – in the meantime a professional journalist – was confronted with BfV dossiers concerning her past activities, she filed an official request for access to files concerning herself. This resulted in fifteen years of continous ligitation.
Where to adress requests for access to your files? A list of directions of police and security services
Journalists” Access to ”Stasi” files by Wolfgang Gast
The rights of access granted in the ”law concerning the files of the state security service of the former GDR” go far beyond theregulations of access and freedom of information in other German laws. Yet the law contains a significant blemish inasmuch as it transforms both journalists and scientists automatically and against their will to servants of state prosecutors: All files subject to information request are to be previously checked on whether they contain information that could lead to acriminal investigation. In this case they have to be presented to the state prosecutors offices. This, for instance, happened to the Stasi dossiers on terrorist organisations.
Switzerland – with or without Political Police? by Catherine Weber and Heiner Busch
In 1994 the Swiss ministry of justice presented the draft for a federal state protection act, which was debated by the ”National Council” (the large Chamber of parliament) in June 1996. Compared to the decisions of the small Chamber in 1995 the proposal was watered down in some aspects.
Nevertheless it would remain a legislation for police spying. The right of access to one”s own files, archieved after public protest in the context of the ”fiche affair” in 1989 will be completely abolished. The last word, however, will be spoken by the people in a votation next year.
Police Informers as Evidence by Rainer Endriß
The primary goal for the use of informers was initially a merely operational one. Informers were thought to infiltrate mainly groups of foreign criminals, which due to their different language or dialect, their cohesion and ethnical homogenity presented a problem for normal police investigations.
Informers were mainly recruited from criminal milieus. From the perspective of defence lawyers such methods are increasingly used to simplify and streamline investigations and to gain forensic evidence.
The Berlin ”Rags Affair” by Otto Diederichs
In the past two years ”amnesty international” had to publish special reports on ill-treatment of immigrants by German police officers. The Berlin police now has shown that ill-treatment also is possible without directly inflicting violence. For the past four years rumanian convicts and rejected asylum seekers in deportation centers were forced to wear usedpolice training suites, that actually were nothing else but rags. In this outlook they were also officially photographed and presented before the magistrates, before the whole affair was brought to public attention in April of 1996.