GERMANY: Bavaria passes bill expanding police powers despite civil society opposition

On 15 May, the Bavarian parliament passed a controversial Police Task Bill (PAG) granting police new powers to act without “concrete suspicion”. The law will lower the threshold for surveillance from “concrete suspicion” to “looming danger” and allow for “preventative detention” up to three months in case of fear of public disorder without a prior court ruling.

The legislative act was loudly criticised. At least 30,000 people protested in Munich on 10 May, bringing together political parties and civil society groups. The “noPAG” demonstration urged to stop the bill, which could harm fundamental rights and democracy. Critics believe that the powers of the police will be disproportionately expanded, especially on online surveillance and DNA screening, setting a precedent for the rest of the country.

Ulrike Gote, legal policy spokeswoman of Bündnis 90/Die Grünen in the Bavarian state supported the broad alliance against the PAG and said this “is just another building block in a chain of ever-increasing tightening with the argument that it improves internal security. The sensitive relationship between freedom and security is being shifted more and more in the direction of security and at the expense of the freedom of all citizens […] This gives the police the opportunity to intervene on an unprecedented scale (Translated from German).”

According to Index on Censorship, the bill could also hamper investigative journalism “because it gives police new powers to access mobile phones, computers and cloud-based data. Law enforcement would be allowed to amend or delete the information they recovered from devices under the legislation.” Bavarian Journalists’ Association (BJV) Director Dennis Amour warned that the legislative package lacks effective protections for journalists and whistleblowers.

Featured image: DPA