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German Cabinet plans to improve prosecution of war crimes

Published : 01 Nov 2023, 23:35

  DF News Desk
German Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach, German Minister of Defense Boris Pistorius and German Minister of Economics and Climate Protection Robert Habeck attend the weekly meeting of the German Cabinet. Photo: Michael Kappeler/dpa.

Germany's Cabinet on Wednesday signed off on plans to improve the prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity, reported dpa.

Victims of certain crimes and their relatives are to be admitted as joint plaintiffs in proceedings in Germany, according to the plans.

In addition, they are to be assigned a lawyer without further preconditions. In order to provide them with additional support in what are usually extremely stressful proceedings, victims are also to be entitled to psychosocial support during the proceedings.

The German government also wants to make it easier to prosecute the crime of "enforced disappearance" in Germany. So far, this is only possible if the relatives can prove that they have asked the authorities or local rulers about the whereabouts of the disappeared.

"Disappearances are unfortunately not only common practice in Syria, but also [they are used] by the Russian occupiers in eastern Ukraine to intimidate the population," said Helge Limburg, a Green Party politician specializing in legal issues.

It is not reasonable to expect family members to first ask the pseudo-authorities of an occupying power for a crime to be punished, she added.

The bill passed by the Cabinet also provides that in future an interpreter should always be available to enable foreign media representatives to follow proceedings dealing with crimes committed in their home country.

"International criminal law has become dramatically topical since the Russian war of aggression on Ukraine," said Justice Minister Marco Buschmann.

Therefore, criminal liability gaps urgently need to be closed and victims' rights strengthened, nationally and internationally, he said.