Human Rights v. Surveillance: Legal Advocacy against the 2016 German Foreign Intelligence Reform

Intelligence, surveillance and Human Rights are in a heavily charged relationship: The competing interests manifest the century-old question of security, privacy and freedom, while advocating for Human Rights is particularly difficult. Intelligence agencies operate in the dark, surveillance remains mostly clandestine, successful advocacy against it is rare. The case of the 2016 German Foreign Intelligence Reform and the following constitutional complaint show one of these rare examples of well-aligned legal advocacy in a field where Human Rights’ defenders are usually bound by the intelligence agencies’ good will to cooperate. After a brief introduction to the field of Human Rights and intelligence, the article focuses on the lawsuit against the 2016 reform, provides an analysis of the advocacy strategy and closes with lessons learned for future legal advocacy in the context of surveillance.


I. Human Rights and Surveillance – Balancing Competing Interests


Klass and Others v. Germany (1978), Liberty and Others v. the United Kingdom (2008), Roman Zakharov v. Russia, Szabó and Vissy v. Hungary (2016) or Privacy International and Others v. the United Kingdom (2020) – the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has been dealing with questions of Human Rights and Surveillance for the past 40 years and the trend is clear: strongly upwards (ECtHR, 2020). Sometimes ruling in favor of one side, sometimes the other, the ECtHR accounts for the competing interests between privacy, freedom and security by surveillance.


Digital Surveillance. With the mass popularity of the internet and digital communication, surveillance nowadays means digital surveillance, particularly, monitoring internet usage, digital communication and collecting personal data. The umbrella term digital surveillance hosts the concepts of Mass Digital Surveillance (MDS) and Targeted Digital Surveillance (TDS). Whereas MDS refers to monitoring the tremendous stream of exchanged digital communication for indication on potential threats (e.g., terrorism, money laundering, drug trafficking), TDS is usually attributed to more sophisticated surveillance methods against specific targets (e.g., terrorists, criminals, journalists, dissidents). Amnesty International defines TDS as


“the practice of monitoring or spying on specific persons and/or organisations who may be of interest to authorities, through digital technology. Targeted digital surveillance may involve compromising devices by installing malware and spyware or compromising digital communications through phishing campaigns, among other tactics.” (Amnesty International, 2019, p. 4)


Mass Digital Surveillance, on the other side, is defined as


“the practice of monitoring an entire population, or a significant subset of it, through digital means. It is typically done through monitoring electronic communication, digital cameras, employing facial recognition technology, collecting information through biometric databases, or even through drones, among many other tactics. While usually done by governments, it can also be implemented by private companies acting on behalf of governments or out of their own volition.” (Amnesty International, 2019, p. 4)


The differentiation between TDS and MDS is typically blurry, in particular, because MDS measures can produce leads that are followed by more targeted surveillance. The German Foreign Intelligence agency (BND), for example, can “copy 1.2 trillion IP connections for further processing each day.” (Wetzling, 2020, p. 2) Applying an extensive set of filters called “selectors”, the BND generates leads from this bulk data. Despite unclear empirical evidence on its effectiveness as well as the proportionality of cost and benefits (Cayford & Pieters, 2018), law enforcement and intelligence agencies, like the BND, stress the importance of digital surveillance to monitor international terrorism, proliferation of weapons and international organized crime (Butini, 2020). The European Court of Human Rights underlined their legitimate interest and ruled the method a “valuable means” of counterterrorism in the 2018 case of Big Brother Watch and Others v. The United Kingdom (ECtHR, 2018, p. 157).


Right to Privacy. Surveillance in general infringes the right to privacy which is protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 12 of the UDHR (and Article 16 of the ICCPR equivalently) states that “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.” Though disputed legally whether it amounts to an infringement per se, the mere threat of surveillance (without the actual activity) can already lead to self-censorship and possibly violates Human Rights (Bar-Tal, 2017). A 2015 PEN study showed the problem of self-censorship out of fear of surveillance: 34% of writers in countries classified as “Free” by Freedom House, 44% in countries classified as “Partly Free”, and 61% in “Not Free” countries have avoided writing or speaking on a particular topic or have seriously considered it due to fear of government surveillance (PEN American Center, 2015). This way, the (threat of) surveillance also impairs the right to freedom of expression, enshrined in Article 19 of the UDHR. On a third account, some countries violate the right to privacy also by “collusive delegation” where a government or its agencies circumvent domestic checks and balances on surveillance by sharing information with countries with lower legal standards and then share generated insides. The fourth surveillance-based Human Rights concern is an indirect violation of the right to privacy and a direct violation of the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights: Comparable to weapons manufacturers, technology companies like the NSO Group (Israel/Luxemburg) or Finfisher (UK/Germany) build software (and partially hardware) for surveillance products. If due diligence in the distribution and supply chains is neglected, these products are sold to countries that deploy the technology for Human Rights-violating MDS or TDS.


Legal and Illegal Violations. While TDS always amounts to an infringement of privacy, its application can be compliant with Human Rights law if its neither arbitrary nor unlawful (for discussion on Human Rights and Criminal law conflict see, for example, Van Kempen, 2014). This is seen in countries like the U.S., U.K., France, Germany or Japan where law enforcement and intelligence agencies pursue criminals or other malicious actors with means of surveillance (e.g., wiretapping, mail interception, computer hacking) in a lawful manner and their infringement does not justify Human Rights-based complaints. To conduct “legal surveillance”, a country must base its mandating laws on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (OHCHR, 2014). A common technique in authoritarian regimes is to render dissidents into criminals by abusing legal power and then “legally” pursuing them with means of surveillance. This definition of “legal surveillance” does not hold under international human right laws. Violations of the right to privacy – either by applying ill-defined laws or violating well-defined laws – are frequent as shown in recent reports from China (Lucas & Feng, 2018), the UK (Ponsford, 2015), Colombia (Ellerbeck, 2016) or Germany (Baumgärtner, Knobbe, & Schindler, 2017).


A Lack of Case-Studies. Despite whistleblower-generated insights, the breadth of intelligence-led surveillance remains secret and only a few substantive case-studies are publicly available. This is particularly the case for the surveillance of journalists as they face a detrimental predicament when disclosing presumed surveillance: If they believe to be under surveillance and make their suspicion public, they will scare off potential informants. If they remain silent, they understate the problem and weaken the leverage for Human Rights advocacy. The Slovenian investigative journalist Blaz Zgaga, plaintiff in the BND lawsuit, emphasized: “Being under surveillance negatively affects my work, as sources from the intelligence community know it is risky to contact me.” (No Trust No News Campaign, 2020a) Evidence of Targeted Digital Surveillance against journalists remains low, particularly in countries with little to no freedom of expression. Ahana Data, Head of IT at the Financial Times is one of the rare exception who gives insides into the daily threats that her newspaper receives (Datta, 2020), while Amnesty International provides only a less than 300-word case-study on their lead report on TDS and MDS. The limitation on case studies weakens the evidence base for successful Human Rights advocacy in the field.


II. The Case: A Lawsuit against the 2016 reform of the “Law on Foreign-Foreign Surveillance by the German Foreign Intelligence agency (BND)”


The ground-breaking revelations of U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013 not only showed that the NSA spied on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone but divulged the close cooperation between German intelligence services and U.S. agencies (Cermak, 2015). The following public debate questioned the legality of the conduct and requested a more extensive legal coverage of intelligence conduct. In December 2016, the “Law on Foreign-Foreign Surveillance by the German Foreign Intelligence agency (BND)” (Gesetz zur Ausland-Ausland-Fernmeldeaufklärung des Bundesnachrichtendienstes) passed the German Parliament, rendering it effective the day after. Aimed to corroborate the current doing of the BND in its international surveillance, the law now allowed opponents to specifically address their previously unconfirmed concerns on the BND’s conduct and filed the much-discussed lawsuit[1] at the German Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht).


The criticism (and later lawsuit) contained two main arguments (Wetzling, 2017): First, the overly broad definition of the target audience, and second, the discrimination against foreigners with regards to the applicability of basic constitutional rights to them. The advocacy group “No Trust, No News”, which later filed the lawsuit, explained the first argument succinctly:


“The law enables the BND to intercept communications without any specific grounds for doing so and to gather and process all content and traffic data. In other words: every e-mail, text message or telephone call sent or made by foreigners living abroad can be intercepted and used by the BND. The conditions under which this surveillance may be carried out are much too vague and too broad in scope and there is no effective means of monitoring these surveillance measures. Unlike surveillance of communications within Germany, which fall under the Code of Criminal Procedure (e.g., regarding the surveillance of suspects in the context of organised crime), the BND does not need to have any concrete suspicion or any court order to engage in the strategic surveillance of foreigners abroad. Thus surveillance can be ordered merely for the purpose of obtaining ‘information of significance for foreign and security policy’.” (No Trust No News Campaign, 2020b)


The second concern addressed a more profound and long-ranging issue: Does the German Grundgesetz[2] apply only to German citizens and/or individuals on German soil? Or does the right to privacy also protect foreigners? By legal definition, the BND can neither target EU nationals or German citizens as they are protected by article 10 of the Grundgesetz (G10) or equivalent EU regulation. The G10 can only be circumvented if there is “factual indication” (tatsächliche Anhaltspunkte) for serious crimes like treason, murder or terrorism as indicated in the “Act on Restrictions on the Secrecy of Mail, Post and Telecommunications (Gesetz zur Beschränkung des Brief-, Post- und Fernmeldegeheimnisses). Bearing the long-ranging consequences for a possible applicability of other German articles of the Grundgesetz to foreigners in mind, the Society for Civil Rights (GFF), a major advocate of the complaint, stated that “People abroad are also human beings and have a right to privacy. Especially a German intelligence agency should not be allowed to simply decide whether it respects this right or not.” (Turß, 2020, p. 3)


A key issue of the passed law were anticipated consequences for the privacy of international journalists and their sources: After the 2016 reform, the German Foreign Intelligence agency could deliberately decide to launch a surveillance campaign against any foreign journalist, only checked upon by an understaffed and much criticized oversight body. Their scrutiny on unsubstantiated target selection is only allowed ex posteriori and without the right to view technical details, such as data selectors (Wetzling, 2017). Against the backdrop of the extensive data sharing of intelligence agencies, the journalists raised an additional suspicion: Even if the journalists would work on topics unrelated to Germany, any circumstantial information found by the BND might be traded or passed to foreign intelligence agencies nonetheless. This rendered the breadth of the potential privacy violation by the reform to full extent.


III. Analysis of the Advocacy Strategy: Legal Action against the Reform


In the rather undeveloped field of advocacy evaluation, the question of advocacy strategy evaluation is even less covered by the current literature. Some practical approaches, like the Care US/Dalberg advocacy strategy evaluation tools with a standardized metrics, are available but provide more “hands-on” feedback and little evidence-based results. In the following, the paper draws from advocacy strategy steps outlined by the Association for Progression Communications (APC) (Buckley, 2018) and selects core points for its scrutiny. APC proposes a five-stage strategy development that incorporates (1) Preliminary Steps, (2) Analyzing the Policy Environment, (3) Develop the Strategy (incl. focusing on goals and objectives, identifying the target audience, selecting the advocacy approach and identify key messages), (4) Framing the Plan and (5) Implementation. Given the special context of legal advocacy, the paper combines and adapts the APC steps, partially leaving out certain evaluations as information is not publicly available, pre-determined or a category not applicable (e.g., financial evaluation, risk assessment, identification of involved laws). In the following the paper focuses on the advocacy goal and approach, the stakeholder and the campaign & audience before concluding with a summary.


Advocacy Goal. As the reform provided previously undisclosed insights into the BND’s conduct on foreign-foreign surveillance, the campaign explicitly targeted the 2016 Law on Foreign-Foreign Surveillance by the German Foreign Intelligence agency. Implicitly, the campaign advocated for a protection of the right to privacy and the right of expression from the state intelligence surveillance, particularly with regards to the vulnerable situation of foreign journalists. Targeting the clearly articulated reform, the campaign avoided an internal discussion and prioritization of goals that would have possibly scattered supporters who tried to integrate their own advocacy goals (for a discussion of the problem of advocacy goal dilution against effort concentration see, for example, Allotey & Reidpath, 2005). Instead, the focus on an externally-defined goal help to reduce coordination costs and avoid possible internal resistance against a self-defined goal.


Stakeholders. Several international journalists voiced their concern over the reform and filed the lawsuit as plaintiffs, among them Alternative Nobel Price-winner Khadija Ismajilova, an Azerbaijani investigative journalist working for the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP). In 2017, Ismajilova and her colleagues uncovered the “Azerbaijan Laundromat”, a money laundering scheme used by high ranking members in the twilight of politics, business and organized crime (OCCRP, 2017). She experienced reprisal from intelligence surveillance by the Azerbaijani government and feared for an intensification of data sharing on her research with German authorities (No Trust No News Campaign, 2020c). Among the other eight plaintiffs were the Macedonian journalist Goran Lefkov, who investigated corruption at a daughter company of the Deutsche Telekom, the Guatemala-based German Human Rights lawyer Michael Mörth, the British journalist Richard Norton-Taylor, who reported on the faulty intelligence behind the second Iraq war and the Snowden revelations, and the Slovenian journalist Blaz Zgaga who investigated corruption and weapon trafficking on the Balkans. Together with their ninth plaintiff, the organization Reporters sans Frontière, the journalists founded the aforementioned advocacy group “No Trust, No News” that united privacy-focused NGOs, the affected foreign journalists and other opponents of the law under the lead of the Society for Civil Rights (Gesellschaft für Freiheitsrechte) (Markard, 2020). With the substantive support of the German Journalists’ Union, the German Federation of Journalists, the journalists’ network n-ost, and the “research network”, “No Trust, No News” filed the constitutional complaint.


The complaint was contentually corroborated by the assessment of constitutional law scholars that foresaw legal challenges of reform, in particular, with regards to the incompatibility of the new legislation with the presumed universality approach of the Grundgesetz (Schaller, 2018). “No Trust, No News” convinced lawyer Matthias Bäcker, Professor of Public Law at the Johannes Gutenberg-University in Mainz, Germany, to draft and lead the complaint. Bäcker is a specialist on German constitutional law, frequently serves as surveillance and intelligence expert to committees of the German Parliament and already filed several lawsuits, for example, against mass data retention (Vorratsdatenspeicherung).


Outside the court room, the advocacy group received ample support by other organizations (30-40 in total), as well as activists and expert in the field (e.g., privacy activist Katharina Nocun). Adding to the already high credibility of all organizations and individuals involved, the 2016 BND reform was also heavily criticized by the three UN Special Rapporteurs David Kaye (Freedom of Opinion and Expression), Michel Forst (Situation of Human Rights Defenders) and Mónica Pinto (Independence of Judges and Lawyers). In a joint letter to Germany’s Ambassador to the United Nations, the specifically addressed the Human Rights issues: “We express concern that the draft law would pose a threat to the exercise of the right to freedom of expression guaranteed under article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), ratified by Germany on 17 December 1973” (Kaye, Forst, & Pinto, 2016, p. 3). Their main points focus on the overly broad specification of collection and analysis of data, the anticipated threat to journalism and legal counsel, the issue of discriminating EU against non-EU citizens with regards to their freedom of expression and respective surveillance, as well as the inadequate judicial and legal oversight over the BND.


Apart from single opinions (see, for example, ARD correspondent Michael Stempfle (tagesthemen, 2020)), the opponents of the lawsuit, namely the Foreign Intelligence agency, the Ministry of Inner Affairs and the German Government at large, relied on the legal sophistication of their reform and did not counter the advocacy campaign publicly. As required by law, the German Federal Constitutional Court remained a neutral, yet decisive actor in the advocacy approach.


Advocacy Approach & Campaign. Given the clear advocacy goal, the legal nature of the reform and the technical sophistication of the surveillance issues, “No Trust, No News” decided for a legal advocacy approach. Focusing on a legal confrontation instead of massive public outreach, the journalist-backed campaign avoided the counter-argument that they (mis)used their public influence for their own interest. Instead, the later-discussed media campaign was rather small and did not lead to notable counter-attacks.


The Snowden revelations in mind, the public trust in intelligence and surveillance was already undermined. Soon after the 2016 reform passed the Bundestag, the magazine DER SPIEGEL also revealed that the BND had spied on “at least 50 additional telephone numbers, fax numbers and email addresses belonging to journalists or newsrooms around the world in the years following 1999.” (Baumgärtner et al., 2017, p. 2) Confirming their suspicion on the BND’s conduct, the publication amplified the concerns of privacy advocacy groups, allowed them to frame it as a “systematic surveillance of journalists” (Baumgärtner et al., 2017, p. 4) and helped them to align stakeholders and supporters of their lawsuit. Despite the favorable political climate, the public campaign did not generate a large outreach but remained a nice topic. Petitions by Amnesty International, Reporters without Borders and activists could only collect a total of 20,000 signatures country-wide (RSF, 2020). To contrast, the initiative “Save the Bees” collected over 1.7 million signatures in Bavaria alone[3] (DER SPIEGEL, 2019). Even smaller petition, for example, against the eviction of a mother with her four children in Baden-Württemberg reached 60,000 signatures (change.org, 2016), underlining the niche position of the BND reform complaint. Between 2016 and 2019, only one street protest in Berlin lobbied against the law and generated less than 50 participants despite its professional organization and support by leading oppositional politicians. Pictures and slogans like “Stop the German NSA” and “Privacy is a Human Right” were later well instrumentalized for social media and online campaigns – an integral part of all outreach campaigns (Obar, Zube, & Lampe, 2012). On Twitter, the topic was slightly more successful than in petitions and street protests: Not counting retweets and replies, the campaign produced approx. 450 Google-indexed Twitter posts for its hashtag “#BNDgesetz” (BND law)[4]. In comparison, the much more public-focused “Save the Bees” campaign generated around 1,500 results for its hashtag “#rettetdiebienen”[5]. The over-proportional effect on Twitter underlines the privacy, tech and Human Rights-savvy audience. In the respective Twitter bubble, the topic reached and engaged privacy, intelligence and legal experts like Julia Reda (former Members of the European Parliament, internet activist), the Chaos Computer Club (Europe's largest association of hackers), Thorsten Wetzling (Intelligence expert of the renown think tank “Stiftung Neue Verantwortung”) or Konstantin von Notz (member of the German Parliament and the Federal Intelligence Oversight Panel).


IV. Ruling, Results & Recommendations: Lessons from the 2020 Constitutional Court Decision and Legal Advocacy Approach


Court Ruling. Filed in early 2018, “No Trust, No News” gained a first victory as the complaint was admitted to a public hearing at the Federal Constitutional Court in January 2020. With only two out of 3000 complaints in 2018 going to a hearing (RSF, 2019), the admittance was a strong indicator for the seriousness and later success of the lawsuit, as well as the fit of the legal advocacy approach. In May 2020, the Federal Constitutional Court ruled the 2016 reform to be unconstitutional and requested a major overhaul of the law on the German Foreign Intelligence agency (Miller, 2020). Specifically addressing the complaints of the UN Special Rapporteurs, the landmark ruling covered most pain points of the complaint: The BND is required to protect the basic fundamental rights of non-German citizens and individuals based abroad, must restrict the volume of data taken from respective transmission channels, may use the information only to inform decisions of the Federal Government and not to transfer data to other entities (BVerfG, 2020). The court specifically addressed the situation of journalists and requested a more extensive and a priori judicial review for the surveillance of journalists or lawyers, while demanding an overall strengthening of the capabilities and resources of the independent oversight body (Wetzling, 2020). With regards to “Collusive Delegation”, the outsourcing of surveillance to foreign intelligence agencies, the court ruled that “the German state must protect persons who are subject to the protection of its legal system in Germany from surveillance measures of other states that are contrary to fundamental rights” (BVerfG, 2020, para. 249).


Advocacy Strategy Summary. In the light of the successful complaint, input and output factor of advocacy speak for a well-designed and executed campaign. Cognizant of the rare opportunity to tackle typically uncontrolled surveillance from intelligence agencies, the campaign addressed the privacy and Human Rights issues in a field that usually suffers from little legal specification and is mostly defined by the clandestine interplay between intelligence agency and the oversight committee. The call for transparency in the Snowden aftermath not only allowed for better understanding of the work of an intelligence agency but allowed for more effective legal advocacy.


Given the legal and highly specific character of the reform, a constitutional complaint with a small public outreach campaign has been a very suitable advocacy approach. The strong legal complaint, drafted by an experienced legal advocate, as well as the good prognosis for the lawsuit (Schaller, 2018), reduced the financial risk of the expensive work in a legal advocacy campaign. Other advocacy forms would have likely been less effective: Neither grassroot nor lobby approaches seem to have fit the topic because of the abstract public interest in the topic and no change of political majorities in sight.


With only abstract, if not limited, public interest in the matter, surveillance remains a difficult topic to develop a public voice campaign as the topic remains non-tangible with crucial elements in the nitty-gritty (e.g., how to apply and oversee data filter). Few case-studies and personally affected people at hand make the topic difficult to mobilize for and the campaign – as is society – vulnerable to the easy but faulty “Nothing to Hide” argument. Aware of the specificity of the topic, the campaign targeted the right audience of privacy, Human Rights and/or legal-savvy individuals and NGOs. It used its few public-facing elements (e.g., public protest, petitions) for well-targeted social media activity, addressing, reaching and convincing influential privacy experts and legal scholars. Legal and public action alike have certainly benefitted from the high credibility and the unanimous stance of different NGOs in the field. Seeking an externally-defined advocacy goal helped to avoid an arduous agenda-setting process between the NGOs and a possible dilution of the claim.


Returning Reform & Recommendation. The May 2020 ruling of the Federal Constitutional Court did not solve all issues voiced in the campaign and the new proposal for the reform (“BND Reform 2.0”) raised new concerns. Now, questions rank around the definition of “being a journalist”. “No News, No Trust” criticizes that this definition rests on the BND itself, leaving open if and how journalistic collectives like “Raqqa is being slaughtered silently” or grassroot journalists are covered by the special protection (Dittmer, 2020b; Reporter ohne Grenzen, 2020). A key problem remains the effective surveillance of the surveillance: The extended “Independent Body” (Unabhängiges Gremium), tasked to oversee the BND’s foreign-foreign surveillance, is still deemed understaffed and not tech-savvy enough (Dittmer, 2020a). Instead, the effective control would require oversight over filters and procedures when the BND accesses telecommunications metadata and content at global internet exchange points (Miller, 2020). More technical advances to the problem, as described by Vieth & Wetzling (2019) for example, remain unheard.


The continuing problems to surveil surveillance highlight the only criticism and recommendation of the advocacy approach: As effective as a legal approach in countries with a functioning judicial system can be, the focus on countering current legislation reduces the possibility to control the alternative. If a court rules – as did in this case – a law to be unconstitutional, the following reform does not rest in hands of the advocates. On the contrary: Their focus on underlining what they reject does not specify what they endorse. Instead, the reform might open questions where the advocates have failed to build substantial popular awareness as they focused on the legal and technical details of lawsuit. Learning from the lawsuit against the 2016 BND reform, legal advocacy should always be supported by public information campaigns that go beyond the expert bubble. Only this way can advocates prepare support for the next legal advocacy campaign.




The case of the constitutional complaint against the 2016 reform of the “Law on Foreign-Foreign Surveillance by the German Foreign Intelligence agency (BND)” shows a highly effective and successful legal advocacy strategy in a typically advocacy-adverse field: The protection of Human Rights against clandestine surveillance by intelligence agencies. The strong legal setup, together with highly credible plaintiffs and supporters in the field, achieved a landmark ruling by the German Federal Constitutional Court in May 2020 and scored a symbolic, if not substantive, victory on behalf of the right to privacy and expression. Without substantially increasing awareness for the topic, the advocates missed to build long-term public backing of the topic. The need for this support might emerge instantaneously as the German Parliament approved the new BND law, based on the again criticized “Reform 2.0”, on December 16, 2020. Exactly four years after the first reform has passed and again facing a multitude of unaddressed questions and new issues, it remains highly uncertain whether a constitutional complaint 2.0 will follow soon. The legal advocacy strategy certainly fits.

This paper was submitted as final paper to the course "Human Rights Research & Reporting" at Columbia University's School of International and Public Administration (SIPA), lectured by Prof Iain Levine, former CEO of Human Rights Watch and SIPA lecturer for Human Rights topics.

[1] Formally correct, the German Federal Constitutional Court accepts and deals with “constitutional complaints” (Verfassungsbeschwerde) that resemble constitutional lawsuits in other countries. In the following, “complaint” and “lawsuit” are used interchangeably.


[2] The Grundgesetz (“basic law”) is the most fundamental law in Germany and equivalates to other countries’ constitution.


[3] Germany has approx. 80 million inhabitants, Bavaria 13 million.


[4] An approximation to the Twitter hashtag distribution of “#BNDgesetz” is the Google search: site:twitter.com “#BNDgesetz” which produced 437 results (Geolocation: Germany, Date range: any), retrieved on Dec 17, 2020.


[5] An approximation to the Twitter hashtag distribution of “#rettetdiebienen” is the Google search: site:twitter.com “#rettetdiebienen” which produced 1,500 results (Geolocation: Germany, Date range: any), retrieved on Dec 17, 2020.


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