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German government makes hate-motivated insults a crime

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FILE - In this Feb. 19, 2020 file photo, a projectile lies on the sidewalk near a restaurant at the scene of a shooting in central Hanau, Germany.
FILE - In this Feb. 19, 2020 file photo, a projectile lies on the sidewalk near a restaurant at the scene of a shooting in central Hanau, Germany.   -   Copyright  Michael Probst/AP
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The German government passed a new law on Wednesday making hate-motivated insults a criminal offence punishable with a monetary fine or a prison sentence of up to two years.

Germany's justice minister said the new law is meant to protect Jews, Muslims, gays, people with disabilities and others.

“It is our responsibility to protect every single person in our society from hostility and exclusion,” Christine Lambrecht said.

The new measure, which still needs to receive parliamentary approval, includes insulting hate messages sent as texts, emails or letters.

“Members of Jewish or Muslim communities are being taunted and disparaged,” Lambrecht said.

The move comes as hate crimes and attacks against minorities have been on the rise in Germany in recent years.

In 2020, Germany recorded a 72.4% increase in anti-immigrant crimes, up to 5,298 total cases, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said last week. In the most deadly incident, nine people with immigrant backgrounds were shot dead in Hanau.

Antisemitic crimes in the country were up 15.7% in 2020 over 2019 with 2,351 total incidents. Of the total, 62 were acts of violence while the majority were antisemitic hate speech and other related crimes, frequently on the internet or over social media.

Under existing legislation, insults that were personal and not public couldn't be punished as incitement to racial hatred.