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Right-Wing Violence Has Declined, Rights Group Says

April 5, 1995

BONN, Germany (AP) _ Right-wing violence declined in 1994 but police brutality increased, as did harassment of foreigners, Jews, homosexuals and others in Germany, Human Rights Watch reported today.

The leading U.S. rights group praised the German government for committing more police and prosecutors to combat right-wing violence, keeping a closer eye on neo-Nazis and rightist radicals, and imposing stiffer sentences on violent criminals.

But the level of violence motivated by hatred of foreigners is still four times higher than it was before the 1990 unification, the group said, adding that Germany’s race-based citizenship law contributed to the problem.

Germany must liberalize the law, bring more people of non-German ethnic background into the police, and pass anti-discrimination laws to prevent mistreatment of non-ethnic Germans in everything from the housing market to bank transactions, it said.

Because non-ethnic Germans generally must be residents at least 10 years to get citizenship, and rarely can get dual citizenship, Germany has ``a growing number of people with permanent second-class status,″ the group said.

The government had no immediate comment on the report.

Violent crimes motivated by xenophobia declined to 1,233 in the first 11 months of 1994, from 2,232 cases in 1993 and 2,639 in 1992, the report said, quoting the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution.

But non-violent crimes such as vandalism of Jewish graveyards, racist graffiti and harassment of foreigners, homosexuals and the disabled have increased. There were 1,040 anti-Semitic crimes reported in 1994, 60 percent more than the previous year.

``We are heartened and encouraged by the decrease in violence,″ Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch’s executive director, said at a news conference in Bonn. ``But the numbers are too high for complacency, and probably underreported.″

Inaction and police brutality against the victims of crime has led fewer victims to report crimes, he said, adding that some attacks on Turks attributed to Kurdish militants may have been carried out by right-wing radicals.

The group called for more monitoring of police and punishment of bad cops, noting the frequent charges of police brutality, particularly in Hamburg and Berlin.

Violence seems to have declined since a law sharply curbing the right to political asylum in Germany went into effect in July 1993, noted Maryellen Fullerton, the Brooklyn Law School professor who wrote the group’s report.

Only about 127,000 people applied for asylum in Germany last year, compared to 450,000 in 1992. The government says the decline has curtailed anti-foreigner sentiment in Germany.

The number of foreigners in the country, aside from asylum-seekers, has actually increased. But Fullerton said it was a change in the government’s tone that had contributed to the decline in anti-foreigner violence.

Since the 1993 asylum law passed, fewer government officials have complained about a ``flood of asylum-seekers,″ words that Fullerton believes gave an incentive to xenophobic thugs.

Germany has gone too far in some aspects of its campaign against the far right, the rights group said. It said banning gatherings by rightist groups and a new law against denying the Holocaust set a bad precedent by limiting freedom of speech.

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