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The Ban of Right-Wing Extremist Symbols according to Section 86a of the German Criminal Code

By Andreas Stegbauer
Read the Full Contribution as a PDF

A. Introduction

The rise of right-wing extremism in Germany since the beginning of the 1990s corresponds with an increasing number of propaganda offences, escalating from 8337 reported cases in 2004 up to 10881 in 2005. Also, the provision against the use of symbols of unconstitutional organizations, Section 86a Strafgesetzbuch (Criminal Code [StGB]), became increasingly important. The following essay will explain the aims and structure, the constitutional background and the main practical problems of applying this prescription.

B. Wording of Law

The wording of Section 86a StGB is:

(1) Whoever:

1. domestically distributes or publicly uses, in a meeting or in writings (Section 11 (3)) disseminated by him, symbols of one of the parties or organizations indicated in Section 86 (1), nos. 1, 2 and 4; or

2. produces, stocks, imports or exports objects which depict or contain such symbols for distribution or use domestically or abroad, in the manner indicated in number 1,

shall be punished with imprisonment for not more than three years or a fine.

(2) Symbols, within the meaning of subsection (1), shall be, in particular, flags, insignia, uniforms, slogans and forms of greeting. Symbols which are so similar as to be mistaken for those named in sentence 1 shall be deemed to be equivalent thereto.

(3) Section 86 subsections (3) and (4), shall apply accordingly.

The wording of referred Section 86 StGB is:

(1) Whoever domestically disseminates or produces, stocks, imports or exports or makes publicly accessible through data storage media for dissemination domestically or abroad, means of propaganda:

1. of a party which has been declared to be unconstitutional by the Federal Constitutional Court or a party or organization, as to which it has been determined, no longer subject to appeal, that it is a substitute organization of such a party;

2. of an organization, which has been banned, no longer subject to appeal, because it is directed against the constitutional order or against the idea of international understanding, or as to which it has been determined, no longer subject to appeal, that it is a...