District Court Mönchengladbach-Rheydt, Urt. v. 14.3.2022 – 21 Cs – 721 Js 44/22 – 69/22
Jurisdiction: District Court of Mönchengladbach-Rheydt
Side A: German state (Government)
Side B: Anonymous individual (Individual)
Core objectives: Whether climate protests can be covered by fundamental rights protection.
SummaryIn March 2022, the District Court of Mönchengladbach-Rheydt (federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia) acquitted the defendant who had been charged with trespassing when protesting on the site of a lignite mine. While the District Court found that the entering of the site fulfilled the elements of the crime under Section 123 (1) of the German Criminal Code, it was neither “unlawful” nor “without authority”, as the defendant exercised his fundamental rights under Art. 8(1) – freedom of assembly; Art. 5 (1)(1) – freedom of expression and Art. 4(3) – freedom of conscience of the Basic Law.
The District Court held that climate change was an issue of ‘paramount importance’. The political decision to cease lignite mining – an activity recognised as harmful – and the subsequent decision to delay its phase-out nonetheless, could, in the words of the Court, place individuals in a state of moral dilemma, wishing to protest against it. It follows, that protests against climate-damaging measures can be covered by freedom of conscience.