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Home / Press Release / Following Berlin Attack Germany Response Should Reflect Sustainable Counterterrorism Steps that Uphold Human Rights
December 20, 2016

Following Berlin Attack Germany Response Should Reflect Sustainable Counterterrorism Steps that Uphold Human Rights

New York City—Human Rights First today sends its deepest condolences to the victims of the terrorist attack that killed a dozen people at a Christmas market in central Berlin last night. A truck, in a seemingly deliberate act, plowed into the crowd, killing twelve people and injuring up to 48 others according to police. Human Rights First urges U.S. leaders to work with their German counterparts to take steps that advance national security and promote a sustainable, rights-respecting solution to the root causes of this violence.

“We are deeply saddened by the attack, and our sympathy goes out to those affected by yesterday’s violence. Looking forward, we hope that Germany resists pressure to respond in ways that will ultimately foment tensions and undercut security,” said Human Rights First’s Susan Corke.

Human Rights First notes that in the wake of terror attacks Muslims and refugees often become more vulnerable to hate crimes as they become easy scapegoats. Hate crimes, particularly those associated with xenophobic attitudes, increased drastically in 2015 in Germany. The organization will soon release a report finding that intolerance and the persistence of institutional discrimination have provided a catalyst for bias-motivated violence and extremism in Germany. 

Germany has been a leader in Europe addressing the global refugee crisis, with a welcoming policy toward those fleeing violence and persecution. However, the implementation of their policy has exacerbated existing social divides and allowed hateful narratives to take hold, contributing to increases in hate crimes.

In 2015, crimes against refugee shelters, including violent attacks, more than quintupled compared to 2014 in Germany. Police reported 300 crimes against asylum shelters in the first quarter of 2016, already exceeding the total number of attacks in 2014 and on par with the elevated levels of 2015. Human Rights First urges the authorities in Germany to actively work to protect these communities in Germany who will be more at risk in the coming weeks.
“We have been watching and reporting on trends in Germany with concern this year, and urge Germany to remain steadfast in their commitment to human rights and tolerance,” added Corke. “Long-term security is best enhanced by respecting human rights and is severely hindered by responses that fuel intolerance or marginalize vulnerable communities.”

For more information or to speak with Corke, contact Corinne Duffy at DuffyC@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3319.