Fight for freedom rights: “We help the law to its right”

Who takes a lawyer, has mostly quarrel with the neighbors or anger after a car accident. But to whom can people turn in the violation of fundamental rights such as freedom of the press and opinion? Here are other mechanisms needed. The Society for Freedom Rights (GFF) is a legal collective that has deferred the defense of human and freedoms.

In most states, laws regulate how people deal with one another. This system is maintained in Germany by the system of separation of powers – simplified by laws, judges and police officers. The Basic Law is the foundation from which all other laws are derived.

In order to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms, there are organizations such as the Society for Freedom Rights (GFF). They then step onto the stage when political decisions weigh up the security of citizens against their freedom – for example, when it comes to data retention. In an interview with, Nora Markard from the GFF explains when the organization is committed to freedom of choice and how individual citizens can actually work for a freer living environment.

The Freedom of the Rights Society takes legal action against attacks on fundamental rights and freedoms. What rights do you currently see as particularly threatened?

Nora Markard: Our work is currently focused on protecting privacy in the digital space , defending the freedom of the press and ending discrimination . Especially where security and freedom are weighed against each other, it is often not possible to uphold the freedoms in the political process. But even in the area of ​​equality, there are solidified structures that stand in the way of a realization of the freedoms. Wherever basic and human rights are systematically threatened , we help the law to its right.

One of your priorities is protection against discrimination. They support for example the complaint of a ZDF reporter against pay discrimination. This case is just one example of the daily routine of many women. Would you advise women in similar situations to bring their own lawsuit?

Nora Markard: The legal right to equal pay for equal work is clear. This is enshrined in European law as well as in the Basic Law. But a lawsuit against pay discrimination is not easy to manage, that’s important to know. Many legal details are still in need of clarification. The information situation is usually a problem. For how do you find out what exactly your colleagues deserve? The new Payments Transparency Act, which came into force on 6 July 2017, has a transitional period of six months. But even then, only in larger companies there is a claim to information and that only for average earnings . How much that will be worth in court, will be seen yet.

A lawsuit against the employer, however, is a delicate matter anyway . Therefore, it is advisable to seek early legal advice. We have prepared a large amount of information and are currently planning a symposium on this. However, the GFF itself is not a law firm and only supports a few carefully selected cases via the path of strategic litigation.

How many people have you already supported? Is a case particularly remembered?

Nora Markard: The GFF filed its first constitutional complaint in November 2016. This involves the so-called “G10” law, which allows the Federal Intelligence Service to strategically monitor telecommunications . At the end of last year, the lawsuit against the data-mining crime, which jeopardized the cooperation of investigative journalists with whistleblowers, followed . One of our plaintiffs is, for example, Hajo Seppelt, who has uncovered the Russian Olympic doping . Of course, we have prepared these complaints together with Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders for many months.

Officially, we have not been there so long. All in all, we have already launched four constitutional complaints and others are in preparation. However, as constitutional complaints are often decided only after years, we want to build and expand an organization that can afford to have a long breath. So far, we work completely voluntarily from our own laptop, but we are currently moving into our office and starting to build a small staff of staff.

How can sufferers participate in one of your lawsuits?

Nora Markard: Our strategy is not to overwhelm the courts with mass suits , but to specifically select lawsuits . At the moment, however, we want to take action against data retention and in particular need information about many small providers. For this purpose, we have launched a call to provide us with the necessary information. Of course, we are very strict on data protection.

The most important form of participation in the work of the GFF is for us the sponsoring membership. Unlike individual donations, sponsoring memberships make our budget predictable and make us independent of institutional funding. It starts at 90 euros per year , but many also pay much more. We already have over 700 sponsorship members and are happy about everyone who chooses to join.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of strategic lawsuits? Who will pay the costs?

Nora Markard: Strategic litigation is a normal litigation, with all legal fees . Strategically, it will only be determined by carefully selecting the case, the legal point of departure and the complainants, as we can achieve the best decision with the maximum broad impact. It is also important to involve the public and use every case to mobilize people for basic and human rights and for an open, democratic society. A case should also be “told”. The strategic process management therefore also involves the most efficient use of resources possible .

The GFF sees itself as a kind of war chest for the basic and human rights: We take over the costs for the complaints selected by us or support them in other form, if these costs are already covered. If there are compensation payments, they will of course receive the complainants themselves . Our war chest and the costs of our organization are mainly financed by supporting memberships, but we are also supported by foundations.

Is it in Germany compared to other countries simply for his rights to enter?

Nora Markard: Compared to countries like Turkey, where the Turkey director of Amnesty International has just been imprisoned and journalist Deniz Yücel has been behind bars for months without charge, it is certainly much easier in Germany to stand up for fundamental and human rights , It is our responsibility to use these opportunities to keep our Constitution alive.

The Federal Constitutional Court has developed a very fundamental right-friendly case law in many areas, especially in the area of ​​data protection. His jurisprudence often develops an exemplary effect here . The Federal Constitutional Court sees itself as a civil court and does not charge a court fee. That is not exactly typical. In this respect, Germany is in a European and international comparison quite a good location for the defense of fundamental and human rights.