OSCE Vienna 2013, Part 8: The Right to Peaceful Assembly in Germany
by Baron Bodissey
This is the eighth in a series of posts on this week's OSCE "Supplementary Human Dimension" meeting in Vienna. More will be coming in the next few days. See the reference to a list of links at the bottom of this post for previous articles.
The following intervention (official pdf version) was filed at today's OSCE meeting in Vienna by International Civil Liberties Alliance (ICLA). It confronts Germany and OSCE itself with the blatant violations of German law (and the constitution) by the city of Munich in its interference with Die Freiheit's petition initiative against the building of a mega-mosque.
Statement by International Civil Liberties Alliance
OSCE Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting
Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting on the Rule of Law in the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights
Vienna, July 11, 2013
Peaceful assemblies, be they demonstrations, rallies or pickets, are oftentimes controversial in nature. OSCE instruments affirm this fundamental right and protect the right to organize and attend assemblies and acknowledge that these assemblies form an integral part of a vibrant society. Participation in peaceful assemblies give a voice to those without access to legislative bodies, reflecting local opinion, and expressing the view of those not represented in the media and government.
In this respect, ICLA brings to the attention of OSCE and ODIHR as well as Germany as a participating State the following case:
Starting in mid-July 2011, the German political party DIE FREIHEIT has been peacefully collecting signatures from citizens of the Munich to demand a referendum on whether an Islamic center is to be built in the center of Munich. Apart from being constantly harassed by counter-demonstrators, the organizers face fierce opposition from the office of the mayor, and even the mayor himself. On the part of the mayor, this constitutes blatant interference, which not only is unacceptable, but also against the law. The municipal code clearly states that all parties in the municipality must be treated equally and must be given equal opportunity to present their cases in all publications and events. The mayor openly exhibits his open distaste vis-à-vis the citizens' initiative organized by a party he disagrees with. He does this by mailing letters to the citizens of Munich to convince them not to sign the initiative and does not allow the other side a voice as required by the municipal code. At the end of the letter, the mayor writes the following:
In addition, the mayor routinely has flyers handed out warning people not to sign the petition because the "party [DIE FREIHEIT] is unconstitutional", "they are right-wing extremists", "do not sign [a petition] for a brown party". Furthermore, a group which closely interacts with the mayor's political party, has published a flyer with information and instructions on how to repeal a signature already made.
Finally, the mayor has posters affixed bearing the message that those in charge of the citizens' initiative are being "watched by the Bavarian office for the protection of the constitution. Think carefully about whether you want to support this initiative."
ICLA reminds Germany of its obligations as an OSCE participating State with respect to freedom of peaceful assembly and makes the following recommendation to ODIHR:
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