ExtremismGermany Gets Tougher on Soldiers Engaged in Extremist Activities

Published 3 June 2020

The German government on Wednesday approved a change to the Military Law which would make it easier to dismiss career soldiers who engage in extremist activities. The proposed changes must be approved by the Bundestag. The move comes after a series of incidents in which career soldiers were found to belong to extremist cells and shadowy far-right organizations. In a series of raids in the past few months, the police found these cells to stash arms caches and develop detailed plans for attacking Muslim immigrants and law enforcement personnel.

The German government decided Wednesday to amend Germany’s Military Law to allow simpler and quicker sackings of soldiers disciplined for extremism and other severe misconduct.

The Bundestag, Germany’s lower house of parliament, will have to approve the changes.

Currently, career soldiers, or Zeitsoldaten as they are called in Germany, with more than four years of service in Germany’s Bundeswehr, can only be fired, that is, expelled from the military, through a protracted and convoluted disciplinary process, a process which allows them to bring their cases to civil courts and which often result in them staying in uniform.

The government’s amendments to the law. Among other things, raise that threshold to eight years within Article 55 of the Military Act covering dismissal procedures.

Süddeutsche Zeitung reports that the proposed amendment follows a long series of incidents in which far-right cells and shadowy groups, many members of which were career soldiers – including members of Germany’s elite KSK special forces brigade — were found by the police to stash arms caches. Moreover, members of these cells were found to plot attacks on Muslim immigrants and on German law enforcement.

Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said the law change adopted by the cabinet would enhance disciplinary sanctions and make an “important contribution” to fighting extremism and other serious crimes Germany’s military.

Whoever endangers in these ways the reputation of the Bundeswehr cannot remain in the Bundeswehr,” said Kramp-Karrenbauer.

The German Defense Ministry said another planned reform was to accelerate disciplinary action while allowing the accused recourse to fair civil-law proceedings.

Under Germany’s constitution, the Bundeswehr is controlled by the Bundestag. It currently comprises 183,000 uniformed and about 80,000 civilians.

The Defense Ministry said that 730 soldiers with fewer than four years’ service were dismissed for breach of duty in 2018 and 2019. But among soldiers with more than four years of service, there were only 11 dismissals during the same period, although roughly the same number of cases were investigated. The reason is that many more of these longer-serving soldiers were able successfully to challenge their dismissals in proceedings before disciplinary courts within the Bundeswehr and in civil courts.