Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1989

The Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) is a constitutional
republic and parliamentary democracy. National power is
divided among executive, legislative, and judicial branches.
The head of the Federal Government, the Chancellor, is elected
by the Bundestag, the lower house of Parliament. The powers
of the Chancellor and of the Parliament, which are substantial,
are set down in the Basic Law (constitution) . There is a
division of governmental authority between national and state
governments. The latter retain significant autonomy,
especially in matters relating to law enforcement and the
courts, culture and education, the environment, and social
Organized essentially at the state (land) level and operating
under the direction of state governments, well-trained and
disciplined police scrupulously respect citizens' rights, as
well as those of other persons resident in the FRG to the
extent they are protected by law. In dealing with hostile
elements, including terrorists, special care is taken to
respect the rights of the accused.
The industrialized economy of the FRG provides one of the
highest standards of living in the world.
The foundation of the Basic Law, adopted in 1949, rests firmly
on the principles of liberty, equality, and the free exercise
of individual rights. The "basic rights" enumerated in that
document are theoretically subject to interference only on the
basis of a law, and in practice these human rights are
scrupulously protected.
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
      a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
Politically motivated killing by the Government or by
mainstream political organizations is unknown. Terrorist
groups on the far left (the Red Army Fraktion—RAF), the far
right (neo-Nazi groups), and Middle Eastern terrorists
continue to engage in political violence.
      b. Disappearance
Governmental or police authorities do not abduct, secretly
arrest, or otherwise illegally detain persons.
      c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Police authorities do not physically or mentally torture
prisoners, nor do they engage in cruel, inhuman, or degrading
treatment. Use of excessive force against prisoners or
detainees is not legally sanctioned or officially encouraged.
On the rare occasions when it occurs, it is subject to
impartial investigation and legal sanction.
      d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
No person may be arrested in the FRG except on the basis of an
arrest warrant issued by a competent judicial authority. Any
person detained by the police must be brought before a judge
and charged no later than the day following the day of
apprehension. The court must then issue an arrest warrant
with stated reasons or order the person's release.
There is no preventive detention in the normal sense. The
law, however, provides that a prisoner may be held in custody
(but no longer than 24 hours) while awaiting a formal charge
if there is evidence that he might seek to flee the country to
avoid prosecution. The right of free access to legal counsel
has been restricted only in the cases of some terrorists who
have used contacts with lawyers to promote and continue
terrorist activity even while in prison. Only judges may
decide on the validity of any deprivation of liberty. Bail
bond exists in the FRG but is seldom employed. There is no
exi le.
With regard to forced or compulsory labor, see Section 6.c.
      e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
Trials are public. The Basic Law assures due process and
prohibits double jeopardy. The judiciary is free of both
government interference and intimidation by terrorists. There
are no political prisoners.
      f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The inviolability of the home is ensured by the Basic Law and
fully respected in practice. Prior to forcible entry by
police into a home, a warrant must be issued by a judge or, in
an emergency, by a public prosecutor. Electronic surveillance
or monitoring of mail may be undertaken only after
authorization by a court order.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
      a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The provisions of the Basic Law, an independent press, an
effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political
system combine to ensure freedom of speech and press.
Criticism of the Government is unrestricted. The media and
artistic works are not censored. Academic freedom is
complete. There is no censorship of foreign or domestic
books. Newspapers and magazines are privately owned.
Radio and television networks and stations function, for the
most part, as corporations under special public laws. They
are governed by independent boards made up of representatives
of churches, political parties, and other organizations.
A few experimental private television cable stations and local
television cable networks have been set up. Legislation has
been enacted in all states except Bremen and Hesse to
facilitate and encourage private television stations using
cable, satellites, and other "new" media.
      b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The rights of assembly and association are fully respected, as
is the right to demonstrate. Organizers of street
demonstrations are required to obtain police permits
beforehand and may be asked to pay a deposit to cover the
repair of any damage to public facilities. When demonstrators
have not obtained the required permits, police have exercised
considerable restraint, showing concern primarily for the
continued functioning of public facilities and for the safety
of the general public.
Membership in nongovernmental organizations of all types,
including political parties, is entirely open. Parties found
to be "fundamentally antidemocratic" may be outlawed. Under
this constitutionally based provision, the Federal
Constitutional Court in the 1950 's declared both a neo-Nazi
and a Communist party to be illegal.
For a discussion of freedom of association as it applies to
labor unions, see Section 6. a.
      c. Freedom of Religion
The full practice of religion is allowed. Major religious
groups participate in a state-administered church tax system.
The Government subsidizes church-affiliated schools and
provides religious instruction in schools and universities for
Protestants, Catholics, and m.embers of the Jewish community.
The major religious groupings are active in FRG public
political debates. Political parties are legally barred from
refusing members on the basis of religion.
      d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
German citizens are free to move anywhere within the country
and to leave and return at any time. The Basic Law provides
that Germans who arrive in the Federal Republic from the
German Democratic Republic (GDR) , as well as from Eastern
Europe and the Soviet Union, are treated as German citizens
and therefore may take up residence without restrictions.
Continuing a trend begun in 1986, the number of ethnic Germans
from Eastern Europe coming to settle in the FRG grew steadily.
By June, nearly 152,000 had come, including nearly 100,000
from Poland, 41,000 from the Soviet Union, and 11,000 from
Romania. In addition, nearly 56,000 Germans from the GDR had
arrived by July 31. With the opening of the Hungarian-
Austrian border in September and unimpeded travel to the FRG
through Czechoslovakia in November, the number of East German
refugees increased dramatically to an official total of
343,854 by year's end.
The right of asylum of those who are politically persecuted is
also guaranteed by the Basic Law and respected in practice.
By August, the total number of asylum seekers in the FRG was
estimated to be 800,000, with Poles, Yugoslavs, and Turks the
three largest groups.
Once formally granted asylum status, and to a lesser extent
while being processed, asylees have essentially the same
access to social welfare benefits as German citizens. Short
of the right to vote, they enjoy complete civil rights. While
only about 10 percent of the asylum seekers are successful
with their requests for political asylum, denial of political
asylum does not automatically result in deportation. Eighty
percent of those whose petitions are denied are typically
allowed to remain in the country for other, humanitarian
reasons. Persons from Eastern European countries are normally
allowed to remain whether or not official asylum status is
granted. Extraditions have been extremely rare.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens
to Change Their Government
Under the parliamentary democracy established by the Basic
Law, the FRG is ruled by a government chosen by the people
through orderly elections based on universal adult suffrage.
The Bundestag (lower house) is elected through a mixture of
direct constituency candidates and party lists. Members of
the upper house of Parliament, the Bundesrat, are appointed by
the state governments. Around 87 percent of voters normally
participate in national elections, but local contests attract
significantly lower participation.
Candidates for public office are usually members of political
parties but are not required to be. New political parties are
free to form and enter the political process, but the Basic
Law and the state constitutions stipulate that parties must
achieve at least 5 percent of the total vote in order to be
represented in the Federal and state Parliaments. The FRG has
been ruled since its creation by governments headed by one of
the two major parties, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) or
the Social Democratic Party (SPD) . The current Government is
led by a coalition of the CDU joined by its Bavarian sister
party, the Christian Social Union (CSU) , and the Free
Democratic Party (FDP) . The SPD and the Greens, a party
represented in the Bundestag since the elections of March
1983, comprise the opposition. Although party discipline
plays an important role, voting on issues in the Bundestag is
ultimately a matter of individual decision.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
There were no allegations of violations of human rights in
1989. A number of human rights organizations, both
international and local, freely conduct their activities in
the Federal Republic. The Government considers the
international promotion of human rights one of its highest
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Language, or Social Status
There is no legal and relatively little de facto
discrimination in the availability of shelter, health care,
and education to all inhabitants, regardless of race,
religion, sex, ethnic background, political opinion, or
Due to increased unemployment, the Government has pursued a
three-pronged policy with regard to foreign workers:
integration of longtime residents, limitation of further
entries, and repatriation aid for those willing to return to
their home countries. At the end of June, foreign workers
totalled 1.592 million, or 5.8 percent of the work force, and
36 percent were organized in trade unions. A national debate
has been under way over whether the rights of guest workers
should be broadened to permit unlimited residence and the
right to vote or reduced by limiting the right of entry for
dependent children.
Since the passage of an equal employment rights law in 1982,
women are guaranteed equal employment at the workplace. They
are increasingly rising to management and leadership positions
in the private and public sectors. Protective legislation
bars women from working in certain heavy industrial occupations
and also generally bans night work. Young women experience
difficulties in gaining access to training in some
traditionally male fields. Recent court rulings and government
pilot programs, however, have helped break down some of these
attitudinal and institutional barriers. Women enjoy full and
equal protection under the law, including property and
inheritance rights. Consistent with the special status which
mothers enjoy pursuant to the terms of the Basic Law, the
Government provides financial benefits for mothers, including
maternity leave and child allowances. There are several
active women's rights groups.
Violence against women is acknowledged, and the women's
movement has urged public discussion of the problem and
tougher penalties for crimes against women. Reliable figures
concerning domestic violence, including wife beating, are not
available. Women's groups have taken the lead in calling for
tougher punishment for domestic violence and other crimes
against women. They have also sponsored the creation of a
number of refuges for women who are victims of such violence.
These refuges receive support at the state and local level
varying from 100 percent of expenses in Berlin and Hamburg to
more limited support in other states. According to the
Interior Ministry, the official number of rape cases reported
in 1988 fell to 5,251, the lowest level since 1958. In a
parliamentary speech in May, the CDU Minister for Youth,
Family, Women, and Health referred to a recent study by the
Allensbach Public Opinion Research Institute which said rape
occurs at least once in every fifth marriage. Claims by some
women's organizations that many rapes are not reported and
that rape in marriage is serious enough to require making it a
punishable offense have so far not persuaded legislators to
make marital rape a punishable offense.
Section 6 Worker Rights
      a. The Right of Association
The right to associate freely, choose representatives,
determine programs and policies to represent members'
interests, and to publicize views is recognized and exercised
freely. The right to strike is guaranteed by law, except for
civil servants and personnel in sensitive positions, such as
members of the armed forces. Strikes occurred in 1989,
notably in the printing industry and in the retail trade, in
which work time reduction was one of several issues.
The country has a long-established and highly organized labor
movement, with about 41 percent of the eligible work force
unionized. The German Trade Union Federation represents over
83 percent of organized workers. Reborn in the wake of World
War II, the unions are particularly conscious of their historic
role as the protector of worker rights and a bulwark of the
democratic system. In order to avoid the political divisions
which plagued the post-World War I labor movement, the unions
adopted the principle of a "unified union," independent of any
political party but in which the two major parties are
represented. They actively participate in the International
Labor Organization and in international and European trade
union organizations.
      b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The right to organize and bargain collectively is guaranteed
by law and is widely practiced. Each year approximately 7,000
contracts are renegotiated, affecting some 20 million workers,
or 90 percent of the dependent work force.
No government mechanism to promote voluntary worker-employer
negotiations is required because of a well-developed system of
autonomous contract negotiations. There is a two-tiered
bargaining system, whereby basic wages and conditions are
established at the industry level and then adapted to the
circumstances prevailing in particular enterprises through
local negotiations. A distinguishing characteristic of FRG
industrial relations is the legally mandated system of works
councils which provide a permanent forum for continuing
selective worker participation in the management of the
enterprise. Workers are fully protected against antiunion
discrimination, and there is a well-developed labor court
system to process complaints. There are no export processing
or free trade zones.
      c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
Forced or compulsory labor is barred by the Constitution and
is nonexistent in practice.
      d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children
Federal law generally prohibits the employment of children
under age 15 with a few exceptions: children aged 13 and 14
may do farm work for up to 3 hours per day or may deliver
newspapers for up to 2 hours per day; children aged 3 through
14 may take part in cultural performances under stringent
conditions with regard to number of hours, time of day, and
form of activity.
      e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
While thers is no legal minimum wage, minimum wages are set by
contract within each industry sector. At the lower end of the
minimum wage scale is the $5.40 per houi wage (at current
exchange rates) for agricultural workers. Such minimum wage
levels provide an adequate standard of living for workers and
their families. The number of hours of work per week is
regulated by contracts which directly or indirectly affect 80
percent of the working population. Negotiation of a 35-hour
workweek is a major goal of FRG unions. The average workweek
is nearly 39 hours. Federal legislation sets occupational
safety and health standards. For each occupation, there is a
comprehensive system of worker insurance carriers who enforce
requirements for safety in the workplace