A FORTIFIED DEMOCRACY NEEDS CIVIL COURAGE
On October 7, 2019 the 6th Rheydter Schlossgespräche dealt with the threat to the rule of law posed by crime and right-wing extremist groups.
By Angela Rietdorf, Rheinische Post MG 10.10.2019
„5 years ago I would not have thought that we would have to worry today about the state of our society, about democracy and the rule of law“, said Bernd Fabry, together with Detlev Rauch organizer of the Rheydter Schlossgespräche.
The fact that he is not alone with his concern was shown by the full knight’s hall of the castle and the top-class podium. “Rule of law or constitutional democracy without law“ was the title of the evening and it was about crime, right-wing tendencies, perceived security, trust and transparency. To the basic values of democracy, to regulate, hate, education and lack of personnel. And more serenity.
„There are no No-Go-Areas“ stressed Daniela Lesmeister in her keynote lecture. Lesmeister has been a detective commissioner in the streets of the city of Gelsenkirchen and heads the police department at the NRW Ministry of the Interior since 2017, being responsible for about 42,000 police officers. „You can believe me: the police dare to go into any area. But sometimes we have to bring in more than one patrol car“. The statistics show a decline in crime to its lowest level since 1991, while the rate of clearing-up is the highest since 1960. Nevertheless, according to surveys, almost a quarter of the population does not feel safe; almost half believe that the state is not in a position to ensure their safety. What to do? „We want to create and regain trust through transparency,“ said Lesmeister, referring to the planned publication of the nationality of criminals. „In this way, we can refute the prejudice that most crimes are committed by foreigners with facts.
The participants in the subsequent panel discussion, which was again moderated by Denisa Richters, Head of the Rheinische Post in Mönchengladbach, also focused on transparency.
„We must explain much and set clearly visible indications that the state cares“ said Felix Heinrichs, chairman of the SPD council fraction of the city of Mönchengladbach and designated candidate for the mayor’s office. „As democrats, we should counter right-wing extremist marches on the streets.“
It is important to set also personally borders for racist remarks and force in the language, stated Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, who sits for the FDP in the Bundestag and applies for the office of the mayor in the state capital Duesseldorf. „We must implement the rules we have. People go for borders and test whether one can exceed them”, said the politician. She was seriously appalled by the recent ruling of the Berlin Regional Court in the case of the Green politician Renate Künast. It shows that verbal agitation and personal insults on the Internet are not classified as punishable.
Thomas Kühnen, presiding judge at the OLG Düsseldorf, commented: „There are always isolated cases that cause head shaking, but there is also a systematic problem“. The judiciary has been weakened by constant savings. „The justice system, however, must not be cut back. It must be invested in functioning“, the judge demanded. Incidentally, a lack of personnel was also a reason for bad judgments.
The police, on the other hand, is already one step ahead in remedying the lack of personnel. More than 2,000 new Commissioner candidates have been recruited, who are to be supported by another 500 new administrative staff. There is no image problem. „As things stand today, we already have over 10,000 applications for next year,“ said Lesmeister. In addition, investments are being made in smart IT solutions.
Strack-Zimmermann demanded to start with education. „We have the tremendous chance to sensitize our children and grand-children“, she demanded and received applause from the 80 invited guests in the audience. As well as for the comparison of the situation in Germany with that in other parts of the world, she has visited in her role as spokeswoman for defense of the Liberal Party. „We’re doing super-good. Who does not believe that, should look around in other corners of the world”. Lesmeister, who also heads a private aid organization for the recovery of buried victims after natural catastrophes, could only agree with that.
„We have strong institutions and a self-confident citizenship“, Felix Heinrichs stated. Nevertheless, he saw a latent danger. „We must also stand up for the rule of law and democratic values. But a little coolness is also appropriate in the current discussion. „A policeman does not have to stand behind every citizen“.
But the final word belonged to one of the listeners. Ferdinand Hoeren, chairman of the foundation dedicated to the resistance fighter Theo-Hespers from Mönchengladbach, remembered having seen the Nazis march as a child. He admonished the audience: “A defensive democracy needs citizens with civil courage. And civil courage means contradicting racist attitudes.“
No better word to close the talks.