Hardly any meaningful descriptions of the perpetrators, darkness, chaos and an outdated sexual criminal law: all reasons why only a few perpetrators from the Cologne New Year's Eve can be prosecuted. The kfd sees an opportunity in the new criminal law.
Interviewer: Of the estimated 2.000 perpetrators, only 120 potential suspects could be identified. Are you surprised by this fact?
Dr. Heide Mertens (Catholic Women's Community of Germany): No, not really. Because it was obvious that the situation on New Year's Eve was very confusing, that the police did not have everything under control. And one can well imagine that the women who were harassed were first frightened, protected themselves, probably went away and only later filed a complaint. And so it is not surprising that it is difficult to clearly identify the perpetrators of these crimes.
Interviewer: The BKA president calls it a problem that there are hardly any meaningful descriptions of the perpetrators by the affected women. It was probably also difficult in the darkness and the chaos – does that mean now that there are no more chances of catching the perpetrators??
Mertens: There one must probably ame. And it's also the case that at the time when this took place, a lot of what happened there was not even punishable in Germany.
Interviewer: For example?
Mertens: A sexual harassment, an indecent touching, has not been a crime in this sense until last week. It had not been possible until now in Germany to denounce people who touched others indecently in pubs, discos, on the street, in narrow streetcars. With the announcement of these acts so far nobody had success. This has now been changed by the Sexual Offences Act, prompted among other things by the incidents on New Year's Eve in Cologne. And that means that we now have a clear legal statement: This is a criminal offense. That's new and we have to get used to that socially, that has to be enforced. This must be established in the minds and in the actions. And the hope, after all, is that this will change things…
Interviewer: With this new sexual criminal law, which the Bundestag recently passed, it can become easier to catch offenders?
Mertens: That's certainly the case, although still, and that's a good thing, the standards of our legal system apply: You already have to be able to prove that this happened and perpetrators can be identified. Whether that's possible after the fact, especially in situations like this where there are crowds involved, you have to see how that can go. For women, it's a terrible experience, and filing a complaint after a situation like this is a big step. There you have to see if that can go at all. I think the clear sign that has now been set is first of all a political sign. Namely: That's not possible, that's not tolerable in any situation, under any circumstances, by anyone, and that helps sometimes.
Interviewer: The new sexual offences law is one thing that may shed some light on the matter. On the other hand, the few potential suspects identified are somewhat sobering, giving women the impression that filing charges is futile.
Mertens: Well, something has changed in criminal law since New Year's Eve. From there, it would be an encouragement to say, "Better to go straight to the police". From therefore I hope that they are not discouraged. On the other hand, the criminal investigation authorities can do no more at this point in time.
The interview was conducted by Uta Vorbrodt.