Posted on May 14, 2012

European Court Could Thwart Bid to Ban Far-Right Party

Der Spiegel, May 14, 2012

Germany is currently preparing an attempt to ban the far-right NPD party. But a German legal expert has warned that the bid may be blocked by the European Court of Human Rights, which has even higher hurdles to outlawing parties than Germany does.

Pressure to ban the far-right National Democratic Party has been building ever since the revelation last November that a neo-Nazi terrorist cell was behind a series of murders of mainly Turkish immigrants.

The German government is preparing a new legal bid to outlaw the party, which the German domestic intelligence agency has described as being a “racist, anti-Semitic, revisionist” party bent on overthrowing Germany’s democracy and setting up a Fourth Reich.

The hurdles are high, though, and authorities want to avoid a repeat of their failed first attempt to outlaw the party in 2003, when Germany’s highest court, the Federal Constitutional Court, threw out the case after it turned out that several NPD officials were informants for the intelligence service.

In preparation for a new ban attempt, the national and regional governments in Germany have severed ties with informants in the NPD’s leadership. Their aim is to prove that the NPD poses a threat to the democratic constitution.

The NPD has said it will file a suit with the European Court of Human Rights against a ban. Now, an expert on party law says the party may well succeed.

In an interview with SPIEGEL, Martin Morlok, professor of public law at Düsseldorf University, said the European court had even higher hurdles than the German Constitutional Court when it came to outlawing a party.

Real Risks

Morlok said the German court would base its decision for a ban on whether the party posed risks in the future, whereas the Strasbourg-based court required those risks to be present already.

“The human rights court asks whether an extremist party is, according to its previous election results, really on the verge of gaining power — and the NPD is a long way from that,” Morlok told SPIEGEL.

A ban could also be based on proof that the party supported terrorist activities, Morlok said. “But according to everything one has read and heard so far, there is not sufficient evidence of that.”

Federal Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said last month it would probably be impossible to prove that the NPD’s policy led to the formation of the neo-Nazi terrorist group known as the Zwickau cell. If such a link could be established, it would be “relatively easy to conduct ban proceedings swiftly and successfully,” he told the Südwest-Presse newspaper in April.

Morlok said Germany would not be able to ignore a ruling by the Strasbourg court. “The Federal Constitutional Court would already have to take account of Strasbourg’s requirements in its ruling,” he said.