Germany is a constitutional, parliamentary democracy. Citizens choose their representatives periodically in free and fair multiparty elections. The head of the federal government, the chancellor, is elected by the Federal Parliament (Bundestag). The second legislative chamber, the Federal Council (Bundesrat), represents the 16 states at the federal level and is composed of members of the state governments. The most recent national elections for the Bundestag took place in 2009. Security forces reported to civilian authorities.
Right-wing extremist offenses were a source of significant public and official concern. In November police arrested persons linked to a right-wing extremist group, the National Socialist Underground, for the killings of nine persons with Turkish or Greek backgrounds as well as one policewoman over a period of 13 years. Members of the extreme right also perpetrated a number of anti-Semitic acts, the most widespread of which were the desecration of Jewish cemeteries or other monuments with graffiti including swastikas and racist slogans. Challenges facing persons with disabilities were the topic of public discussion: e.g., some nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) questioned the practice of teaching children with disabilities in designated schools with special facilities, fearing that this segregates the children from society and hinders their future integration as full members of society. Finally, there was also some societal violence and discrimination because of sexual orientation.
Human rights problems during the year included the system of “subsequent preventative detention” that European and national courts have ordered reformed. Citizens challenged the government’s collection of a vast amount of cell-phone data during demonstrations on February 19, resulting in court decisions requiring the government to be more selective in its collection of information and to protect it better. The government limited the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and association of neo-Nazi and other groups it deemed extremist. There were questions about whether the country’s “fast procedure” for determining the refugee status of asylum seekers gave applicants a fair hearing. There were reports of societal violence against women, and sex and labor trafficking of women, men, and children. The gender disparity in pay was significant, as women were concentrated in lower-paying jobs and in part-time work. Some societal discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS was reported.
The government took steps to prosecute and punish officials in the security services and elsewhere in government who committed abuses. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces.