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It’s finally legal to insult foreign leaders in Germany

Germany just removed a controversial law that made it a criminal offense to insult foreign heads of state.

by VICE News
Jan 9 2018, 7:40pm

On Jan. 1, Germany officially scrapped a controversial and little-used law that made it a criminal offense to insult foreign heads of state.

The law is a legal relic from the days when monarchs ruled Europe. But following World War II, the newly formed Federal German Republic had to revise its criminal code and consequently opted to strengthen the law.

"Germany had a big interest in gaining trust in the international community after the Second World war," Alexander Heinze, professor of criminal law at Georg-August-University, told VICE News. "One way to do this is to create laws that criminalize attacks on public officials and especially on foreign heads of state."

The German government last invoked the law in a 2016 in a case against comedian Jan Böhmermann, who read an obscene poem on his television show criticizing Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdoğan.

VICE News looks at the history of the now-infamous law and the events leading to its demise.

This segment originally aired January 2, 2018, on VICE New Tonight on HBO.