26 May 2023, 13:40
Sören Amelang

UN calls for protection of climate activists following crackdown in Germany

dpa / Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

The UN has highlighted the importance of climate activists and their right to hold demonstrations following a crackdown on a street-blocking group in Germany. "Climate activists - led by the moral voice of young people - have continued to pursue their goals even in the darkest days. They need to be protected and we need them now more than ever," UN Secretary-General António Guterres' spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told newswire dpa in an article published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. He added that protesters had been instrumental at "crucial moments in pushing governments and business leaders to do much more," and that global climate goals would already be out of reach without them. However, he also noted that despite the fundamental right to peaceful demonstrations, governments naturally have a responsibility to enforce laws and ensure security.

In a probe against the Last Generation group, which for months has disrupted city traffic in German cities, police raided the homes of climate campaigners, shut down the group’s website and froze two bank accounts. The raids were conducted on the behalf of the Bavarian authorities on the charge of “forming or supporting a criminal organisation” that was planning “further crimes.” Two of the defendants are suspected of sabotaging the Trieste-Ingolstadt oil pipeline — deemed critical infrastructure and therefore subject to special protection — in April last year. No arrests have been made. Many commentators and other environmentalists condemned the crackdown as a disproportionate state response to peaceful protest.

Throughout 2022, Last Generation disrupted traffic across Germany by gluing themselves to roads, and have stepped up their efforts recently. They protest against the government coalition’s climate policies and claim the current coalition “protects business profits, breaks its own promises and our democratic constitution.” Germany aims to become climate neutral by 2045, and has set legally binding emission reduction targets for all its sectors. But the country is currently not on track to meet those targets, also because of high transport emissions. Many conservative politicians have criticised the protests and called for harsh punishments. Chancellor Olaf Scholz criticised the actions “completely nutty” earlier this week.

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