Constitutional Reform

Let German Army Fight Domestic Terrorism

German soldiers take part in a ceremonial procession in Berlin. Source: imago
German soldiers take part in a ceremonial procession in Berlin.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    • Germany’s pacifism is being tested by a new wave of terrorism that brings danger right to its own towns.
  • Facts


    • Laws specifically prohibit German military units from working inside the country.
    • Complaints that allowing the armed forces to aid in the battle against terror would lead to a “militarization” of civil society are unfounded, the author argues.
    • It’s time for German laws to acknowledge the reality of “asymmetrical warfare” and move beyond the older definition of war as being between two countries, the author says.
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After the terrorist attacks in France and the responses by both police and military, the question of whether it is ever permissible for the armed forces in tandem with police to undertake operations inside the country arises again in Germany.

According to Article 87a of the Basic Law (Germany’s constitution) and, in certain emergency situations, Article 91, Paragraph 2 allows German armed forces to act in a state of defense, or a state of tension, to protect civilian property.

Additionally, military actions are possible in accordance with Article 24, Paragraph 2, for example, if the measures are taken within the framework of international alliances (the United Nations, NATO, European Union).

After terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001, the U.S. called its NATO partners to action based on Article 5 of the NATO treaty, which led to German military actions against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. Something similar could happen following the IS attacks in France since the French government has sought support from E.U. partners in accordance with Article 42 of the E.U. treaty.

In both cases, German armed forces were – or could be – used for foreign interventions against terrorists, but the same is not true in case of terrorist attacks inside Germany.

Domestic use of Germany’s armed forces is allowed by Article 35, Paragraph 2, only in the case of natural catastrophes or particularly severe accidents. In such situations, the armed forces are allowed to help police and other intrastate authorities in accordance with the Basic Law.

Terrorist attacks, however, are not included in the framework and continue to be considered in Germany as a task reserved exclusively for the intrastate police.

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