Germany: abolition of ‘lese majeste’

Few days after Donald Trump’s inauguration as US President and a year after Angela Merkel authorised the investigation of a TV comic who wrote a crude poemabout Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Germany has decided to abolish a law which defends the honour of foreign leaders, therefore, international heads of state will no longer be able to ask the German government to prosecute people who offended them under an obscure passage of German law.

German ministers have decided to abolish the penal code provision known as ‘lese majeste’, which prohibits insulting the representatives of international governments as it was considered “outdated and unnecessary”. The idea of lese majesty, in fact, arose in an era long gone by and it no longer belongs in our criminal law.

Jan Boehmermann’s expletive-filled work, including allusions to bestiality, child sex abuse and ethnic discrimination in relation to Mr Erdogan, sparking a diplomatic row between Ankara and Berlin when it aired on German television last March, described Mr Erdogan as “stupid, cowardly and uptight” before descending into sexual references and language later described by judges in Hamburg as “abusive and libellous content”.

The Bundestag lower house of parliament, however, still has to decide on the law change. Therefore, insulted foreign leaders can still pursue their own libel and defamation cases, like anyone else.

 

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