The army is just heavy

Extreme right-wing soldiers - difficult to fire?

Status: 10/30/2020 1:30 p.m.
Wehrmacht devotional items were collected in Franco A.'s barracks.

The case is spectacular as well as bizarre. Franco A., First Lieutenant in the German Armed Forces, pretended to be a Syrian refugee and registered himself as David Benjamin with the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. In his thesis he represented völkisch theses and was arrested on suspicion of terrorism after trying to pick up a deposited pistol from a Vienna airport toilet.

Franco A. continues to be a soldier

The Bundeswehr would like to get rid of him, but it's not that simple. The start of the trial before the Higher Regional Court in Frankfurt am Main on suspicion of terrorism is dragging on, a date has not yet been set. He was arrested in April 2017. He has since been suspended from duty and his salaries have been cut. If a civil court sentenced him to a prison term of more than 12 months, the Bundeswehr could release him immediately. Whether he can be removed from the force may be found out in 2021, maybe even later.

Dismissals without notice will soon be possible more quickly

The Bundeswehr wants to be able to react faster. In the amendment to the Soldiers Act, which the Bundestag is supposed to decide on, the reasons given are that the existing regulations of the Soldiers Act and the Military Disciplinary Code are not sufficiently efficient. A quick and appropriate reaction to relevant violations of the service is made impossible. That should change now. While the Bundeswehr has so far been able to dismiss soldiers relatively easily after criminal offenses and breaches of duty in the first four years of service without notice, this period is now to be extended to eight years for particularly serious cases.

Agnieszka Brugger, Deputy Leader of the Greens in the Bundestag and member of the Defense Committee, welcomes the proposal. Whoever exercises the state's monopoly of force must of course also meet particularly high requirements. "Anyone who rejects our Basic Law cannot be a servant of our state."

Criticism from the representation of interests of the soldiers

The Federal Armed Forces Association is critical of the innovations. Christian Sieh, legal advisor of the German Armed Forces Association: "Within the first four years of service, the employer can unilaterally and above all without notice with a simple administrative act from any soldier due to practically any wrongdoing, whose whereabouts pose a serious threat to the military order or the reputation of the Bundeswehr would mean. "

The special forces command KSK made mostly negative headlines recently.

The soldiers' representatives criticized the fact that even the slightest violations of the Narcotics Act or general breaches of duty of a minor nature could lead to dismissal without notice. There should be a need to do so. However, based on the known number of cases, this need is not at all recognizable. "As the German Armed Forces Association, we therefore strictly reject the project," says Christian Sieh. The association criticizes the fact that the change in the law - if the Bundestag approves it - could dismiss soldiers without notice after eight instead of four years. And even if the ministry writes - only in particularly serious cases - the legal advisor fears that the soldiers will be in an unsatisfactory situation in terms of labor law for much longer. And this is offset by only limited use.

Few dismissals without notice due to right-wing extremism

Statistics from the ministry show: Between 2016 and 2019, a total of 1,335 people were dismissed in the first four years of service - for various reasons. During this period there were just 73 people who were classified by the ministry as right-wing extremists and dismissed. Most of them had to leave because of violations of the Narcotics Act - that was 400. 338 people fall into the "unauthorized absence" category - that is, they simply did not come to work. 208 people were accused of "general official offenses", 166 of "off-duty crimes".

Concentration on troop service courts required

The Bundeswehrverband and the Greens politician Brugger have one assessment in common: other measures would be more important. For example, the strengthening of the troop service courts. Among other things, these have decided on the exclusion from the armed forces for people who have served for more than four years. And these procedures drag on - sometimes for years. The proceedings at the troop service court are also suspended if, for example, proceedings for a violation of the Narcotics Act are heard in a civil court. After a legal ruling, the troop service court then resumes its work.

Long process

The duration of the proceedings in the years 2017 to 2019 from the start of the preliminary investigation to the conclusion by a court decision was more than 30 months, the Ministry of Defense said on request.

There is an overload of the troop service courts because the number of chambers is too small, says legal advisor Christian Sieh. The ministry has just strengthened the troop service courts. At the beginning of 2020 there were still 14 chambers - now there are 18, each with a professional judge. Decisions can be contested, the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig is then responsible.

New approaches

Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karenbauer has initiated a number of measures. The KSK special forces command is to be reformed, and an operational company has been disbanded. A study on right-wing extremism in the Bundeswehr is to be carried out. And Kramp-Karrenbauer is changing the head of the military counterintelligence service: Martina Rosenberg is to lead the MAD in the future.

New MAD boss as a beacon of hope

Martina Rosenberg moves to the top of the MAD.

She was a Bundeswehr disciplinary attorney for many years. The proceedings of those who were to be dismissed from the Bundeswehr after more than four years of service went over their table. So she knows many cases of right-wing extremist soldiers particularly well. But she also knows that the justification must be legally valid. Because even after a decision by the troop service court, those affected still have legal recourse - outside the military jurisdiction of the Bundeswehr.

Lawsuits before the administrative court

You can go to the administrative court. Just like the KSK lieutenant colonel, who had attracted attention as a captain more than ten years ago due to his right-wing sentiment. The case made headlines at the time. The KSK officer was promoted anyway. Now the Bundeswehr wants to get rid of him. But an administrative court recently ruled that he must first be kept on. The fight against right-wing extremism - so it continues to be a major challenge for the Bundeswehr.



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NDR Info | Armed Forces and Strategies | 11/01/2020 | 12:35 p.m.