Berlin-Brandenburg Higher Administrative Court confirms ban on Ukrainian flags

According to the Berlin Senate, Ukrainian flags at the 15 memorials at the commemoration on May 8th and 9th are suitable for “conveying a readiness for violence”. In any case, this is the basis for the ban on Ukrainian, Soviet and Russian flags.

This can be read in the general decree of the police, which restricted the freedom of assembly for the 15 memorials and memorials. In addition to flags, the wearing of military uniforms, the letters “V” and “Z” used in Russia for the war of aggression against Ukraine, and military music were also prohibited in these places.

Now it is clear that the ban on Ukrainian flags was apparently enforced politically by the Berlin Senate – but it is legally questionable. It wouldn’t be the first time that the Senate tried to use the police politically – and the police then had great legal trouble implementing the guidelines properly.

On Monday evening, the administrative court initially lifted the ban on Ukrainian flags, at least for a small and short gathering at the Karlshorst Museum. A danger to public safety was not recognizable. The ban imposed by the police refers to findings from pro-Russian gatherings with flags – not pro-Ukrainian demonstrations. In addition, the gathering is far too small and too far from the city center to be intimidating. The impression of a willingness to use violence is not to be feared.

Only a few hours later, however, the Higher Administrative Court of Berlin-Brandenburg (OVG) reversed this decision. The OVG did not give a reason for this in the evening.

Politically, there is already massive criticism of the ban on Ukrainian flags. Because on Sunday pictures went around the world showing how German police officers collect the Ukraine flag in front of the World War II memorials. “Berlin made a mistake by banning Ukrainian symbols,” said Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

It is very wrong to treat them in the same way as Russian symbols. Taking away a Ukrainian flag from peaceful protesters is an attack on anyone who, with that flag in hand, is defending Europe and Germany against Russian aggression. The Ukrainian Ambassador Andriy Melnyk spoke of a “huge disgrace for Berlin”, he was speechless and sad.

Bundestag Vice: Ban helps Putin’s propaganda

“I would have decided differently,” said Bundestag Vice President Katrin Göring-Eckardt (Greens) on Monday on the television channel “ntv”. She believes the ban will ultimately help Russian President Vladimir Putin’s propaganda. “You’re smarter afterwards,” added the Greens politician.

Expressed doubts about the flag ban, which also applies to Ukraine flags: Bundestag Vice President Katrin Göring-Eckardt (Greens).Photo: Soeren Stache/dpa

Berlin’s former governing mayor, Michael Müller (SPD), also criticized the ban. “Perhaps it wasn’t the wisest decision to proceed here now,” said Müller (SPD) on Sunday evening to the “Bild” broadcaster.

However, he can understand the background against which the police and Senate made such decisions. They probably wanted to avoid “any form of escalation, of provocation,” said Müller, who now represents the SPD in the Bundestag. But there might have been “a different scope for decision-making.”

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The Senate defended the ban on Ukrainian flags over the weekend. It is important to “prevent any confrontation” and to enable a dignified commemoration at the memorial sites that commemorate both Russian and Ukrainian soldiers who died in action. Now it is clear: the police had to find a reason for the ban on the Ukraine flags – and that was legally dubious.

When it comes to the ban on flags, the police refer to the General Safety and Order Act (ASOG) and the Freedom of Assembly Act. Accordingly, the Ukraine flags could endanger public safety and order, but above all a gathering with Ukrainian flags at the memorials could be “suitable or intended to convey a readiness to use violence”. In any case, this danger is named in the Freedom of Assembly Act as a reason for imposing conditions on assemblies, dissolving them or forbidding them.

Left-wing interior expert considers ban on Ukraine flags unacceptable

The interior administration left the question unanswered as to why, in their view, Ukrainian flags could convey a readiness to use violence during World War II commemorations. The police justified the ban with the overall consideration of possible dangers and with public peace. The ban prevents “violent clashes between a pro-Russian and a pro-Ukrainian camp”.

The police stated that it should be “clarified that national flags, especially the Ukrainian flag, do not in principle convey a willingness to use violence”. In individual cases, however, this could be different. “In the case of a sea of ​​Ukrainian flags at the defined memorial sites, such an impression can be made on Russian commemorators, even if this is not the intention,” the authority said. Therefore, “every possible subjective intimidating effect should be ruled out” in order to enable everyone to commemorate in a dignified and peaceful manner and “to prevent possible disputes and serious crimes”.

The legal expert of the left faction, Sebastian Schlüsselburg, expressed massive doubts about the actions of the police on Monday morning. The general decree issued by the police for a blanket ban on the Ukraine flag or the historic flag of the Soviet Union had “expectably led to problems,” he explained. Schlüsselburg considers it “legally unacceptable” that the police claim that the Ukrainian flag could convey a readiness to use violence.

Instead of an advance ban, it would be possible to limit the use of Ukraine flags on a case-by-case basis. Because there were no signs of problematic behavior or a threat to public safety, said Schlüsselburg.

CDU general secretary wants to sue against ban on Ukraine flags

The FDP domestic politician Björn Jotzo criticized Interior Senator Iris Spranger (SPD): “By banning flags in many places in our city, the interior senator overshot the mark,” said Jotzo in the whole world.”

As reported, Berlin’s CDU General Secretary Stefan Evers wants to take legal action against the ban on Ukrainian flags on Monday, he wants it declared illegal. Evers, CDU country chief Kai Wegner and other Union politicians wanted to take part in the commemoration at the Soviet memorial on Straße des 17. Juni in Tiergarten on Sunday. The police refused to allow them to carry Ukrainian flags, Evers said. “This Senate decision is a disgrace for Berlin,” he said.

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The police referred to a decision of the Higher Administrative Court. It had confirmed the ban on Soviet flags on Sunday. The DKP had sued because of their meeting at the Soviet memorial in Treptower Park. The danger forecast by the police is understandable in view of the tense security situation and seems to be “apparently confirmed in view of the live reporting in the Tagesspiegel (12.55 p.m.)”, as the decision said, among other things.

Accordingly, showing a red flag in front of the Soviet War Memorial in the Tiergarten triggered an aggressive mood among the demonstrators. The judges made it clear that the Soviet flags created the impression that Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine was approved.

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At the end of April, the Administrative Court and the Higher Administrative Court had already confirmed the police requirements for a pro-Russian motorcade and the massive restriction to just a few Russian flags. A sea of ​​Russian flags could appear militant, militant, “martial” and “intimidating” and create the impression of a triumphant march. In the current situation, this could be interpreted as support for the war of aggression.

As an explanation you have to know: The approval of aggressive wars can be punishable. To what extent the Ukrainian flag in Berlin could justify violence and war was not yet an issue for the courts.

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