Country Report on Terrorism 2016 - Chapter 2 - Germany

Overview: German law enforcement routinely investigated, arrested, and prosecuted numerous terrorist suspects in 2016. Residents of Germany becoming foreign terrorist fighters abroad remained a significant trend and officials estimated at least 880 residents of Germany have departed for Syria and Iraq since 2012 to participate in those conflicts. The majority are believed to have joined violent Islamist extremist groups. Officials believe that 140 of them died in Syria and Iraq, while roughly one-third returned to Germany. German officials actively investigated returnees for any terrorist threat resulting from their experience abroad and possible desire to continue to support violent extremist causes. Bilateral counterterrorism cooperation with the United States remained excellent.

Germany is a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, and although it does not conduct airstrikes, it provided arms, material support, and training to Iraqi Kurdish security forces; AWACs crews, reconnaissance aircraft, and refueling aircraft to support Coalition air operations over Syria and Iraq; and a frigate to defend a French aircraft carrier from which Coalition air operations are launched. Germany implemented UN Security Council resolutions 2178 and 2199, and upheld obligations under the UN Security Council (UNSC) ISIL (Da’esh) and al‑Qa’ida sanctions regime. Through legislation that criminalizes terrorist finance as well as foreign terrorist fighter travel, Germany sharpened its previous antiterrorism laws. Germany is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) and supported the GCTF good practices on foreign terrorist fighters. Domestically, the German government has increased its enforcement efforts to prevent, interdict, and counter foreign terrorist fighter travel and voiced support for strengthening European Union (EU) and Schengen measures. In May, Germany and the United States signed an arrangement to exchange information on known or suspected terrorists. In November, the Bundestag (parliament) approved the 2016 budget with increased spending on law enforcement and domestic counterterrorism intelligence efforts.

2016 Terrorist Incidents:

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The German government continued to apply its comprehensive counterterrorism legislation, which criminalizes membership in, or support for, domestic and foreign terrorist organizations. The Criminal Code prohibits a range of terrorism-related preparatory actions, including actual or attempted departure from Germany to participate in terrorist training, acquiring weapons or explosives with the intent to commit attacks, and terrorist finance.

On July 29, Germany adopted additional counterterrorism legislation (“Improving Information Exchange to Combat International Terrorism”), which authorizes the Federal Police to operate undercover agents for both law enforcement purposes and the protection of public safety; expands data exchanges with foreign intelligence services; authorizes the domestic intelligence service (BfV) to establish and operate joint databases with foreign partners; increases control and monitoring of communications using prepaid mobile phones; and lowers the of age of suspects which the BfV is allowed to track and collect data on from 16 years to 14 years.

Germany does not record all entries to or exits from the country; however, it systematically checks all non-EU citizens arriving at airports and is working to institute systematic Schengen border checks of EU citizens. Biometric data is not screened at entry, although Germany participates in the EU Smart Border pilot. Germany only collects fingerprints from Schengen visa holders, which are screened against the EU’s Visa Information System. All arriving and departing passengers’ passports are manually checked against the INTERPOL Stolen and Lost Travel Document Data Base.

Data on suspected terrorists is shared between federal and state law enforcement agencies. German passports and other identity documents incorporate strong security features, but data privacy concerns contribute to German reticence to expand travel analysis systems. Collection and retention of Advance Passenger Information for traveler screening is limited to high threat routes. Germany does not currently use Passenger Name Record (PNR) analysis, but following approval of a new EU-wide PNR Directive is drafting PNR legislation and developing a PNR system.

Numerous arrests, prosecutions, and trials in 2016 focused on terrorism, and the Federal Ministry of Justice estimated there were approximately 500 ongoing terrorist cases as of late September with the Federal Prosecutor’s Office. Prominent and legally significant cases (that were ongoing at the end of 2016, unless otherwise indicated) included:

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Germany is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), and is an observer to numerous FATF-style regional bodies. Germany’s financial intelligence unit, the Financial Intelligence Service, is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. German institutions filed 29,108 (compared to 25,054 in 2014) suspicious transaction reports in 2015 (the latest figures available), 615 thereof for suspected terrorist financing, up sharply from 2014 (323). The German government has submitted draft legislation to the Bundestag that would move the FIU from the Federal Police to the Ministry of Finance and expand its mandate to allow for better communication with the private sector and in‑depth analytical work on terrorist finance risks.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2017 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes:

Countering Violent Extremism: Germany has numerous programs to counter violent extremism (CVE) at both the state and federal levels. On July 13, Federal Interior Minister de Maizière and Federal Family Minister Schwesig presented the federal government’s first comprehensive strategy against violent extremism which aims to better coordinate and evaluate the approximately 700 existing partner programs and organizations receiving federal funding. The MOI budget for CVE projects doubled from six to 12 million euros annually in 2016, and the Family Ministry’s “Live Democracy program” budget will double to 100 million euros for 2017, up from 50 million per year in 2015-2016. These two Federal Ministries, together with their state-level counterparts, formed a working group to ensure coordination and more effective support for CVE efforts. The working group meets regularly to compile and disseminate information and best practices.

The Federal Ministry of the Interior continued its counter-radicalization assistance center for concerned parents and friends of violent extremists, operated by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. The center was established in January 2012 and has expanded to include a nationwide telephone hotline. Clients are referred to a region-specific advising partner.

The Federal States of Bavaria, Berlin, and Hesse operated state-level counseling and de‑radicalization programs implemented by the non-governmental organization, “Violence Prevention Network,” focused on counseling for families of radicalizing or radicalized individuals and for the individuals themselves. Violence Prevention Network also implemented CVE programs in prisons in these states.

Augsburg, Bavaria, and Dresden, Saxony, are members of the Strong Cities Network.

International and Regional Cooperation: As a founding member of the GCTF, Germany supported its capacity-building projects and continued to participate in various multilateral counterterrorism initiatives. German cooperation with regional and international organizations on counterterrorism includes the United Nations, EU, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Council of Europe, the G-7, the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, and INTERPOL. Germany is a founding member of the GCTF‑inspired International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law. Germany advocated strongly within the EU for improved counterterrorism and border security efforts.