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East Germany Table of Contents

East Germany

Penal Code

The Penal Code in use in 1987 became effective on December 1, 1968, after several years of preparation. It replaced the German code of 1871 that had been extensively modified to make it compatible with the Soviet code. According to authorities, the nineteenth-century code had been based on personal relationships relevant only to private ownership of the means of production, and the compromises between it and a socialist code had never been satisfactory. The 1968 code was amended in 1974, 1977, and again in 1979. The 1979 amendment and other new legal provisions were more stringent. Authorities were given broader power, public order was generally strengthened, and police were given greater latitude in securing evidence.

The code is divided into nine sections: crimes against the sovereignty of the regime and against peace, humanity, and human rights; crimes against the regime; offenses against the individual; offenses against youth and the family; offenses against socialist property; offenses against personal and private property; offenses against the general security; offenses against the regime and public order; and military offenses. Other than for its accommodation of property rights in a socialist system, the 1968 code is noteworthy in that five of its nine sections deal primarily with offenses against the regime and the social system.

Punishments usually consist of fines or imprisonment but also frequently involve efforts at rehabilitation. Special consideration--job training and social rehabilitation--is usually given to juvenile offenders. Until July 1987, execution in time of peace could be authorized for eleven crimes against the state and for murder. Military courts, even in peacetime, had the right to sentence both civilians and military personnel to death for a variety of offenses. On July l6, 1987, however, East Germany announced the abolition of the death penalty.

Data as of July 1987