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Is there a legal definition / sanctioning of ethnic profiling?

Key Area:
Policing - Law Enforcement - Justice
28/02/2012 - 18:01
Short Answer

No, there is no legal definition/sanctioning of ethnic profiling.

Qualitative Info

While the term ‘ethnic profiling’ is not mentioned in German law, Germany has ratified a number of human rights treaties that prohibit racial discrimination (Hieronymus 2001: p.13). Also, the European Code of Police Ethics states that “[p]olice training shall take full account of the need to challenge and combat racism and xenophobia” (ECPE, p.10 par. 30).

A highly controversial judgement passed by the Administrative Court Koblenz reaffirmed this approach. On 28 February 2012, the court decided that the German Federal Police is allowed to conduct personal identity checks without a concrete suspicion. On grounds of efficiency and capacity, the police controls are limited to random checks. Therefore, the police are authorized to select persons for identity check on grounds of appearance. Thus, identity check due to skin colour is permitted according to the court decision as it is seen as minor intervention (document number (Aktenzeichen): 5 K 1026/11.KO).
Yet, the claimant appealed against the decision before the higher administrative court Rheinland-Palatinate (Oberverwaltungsgericht Rheinland-Pfalz, OVG). On 29 October 2012, the court overturns the previous ruling in the case by the administrative court of Coblenz. According to the jurisdiction, identification checks based on skin colour constitutes a violation of Germany’s anti-discrimination law laid out in Art. 3 (3) of the Basic Law (Grundgesetz, GG).


  1. European Code of Police Ethics (ECPE), Rec (2001)10,, accessed on 27.02.2012
  2. Hieronymus, Andreas (2011): ENAR Shadow Report 2009/2010 – Supplemental Report: Ethnic profiling in Germany,, accessed on 27.02.2012.
  3. Higher administrative court Rheinland-Palatinate (Oberverwaltungsgericht Rheinland-Pfalz, OVG), resolution 7 A 10532/12.OVG, Press release, 29 October 2012, available at: (accessed on 13.01.2013).
  4. German Institute for Human Rights (Deutsches Institut für Menschenrechte, DIMR) (2012) ‘“Hautfarbe“ ist kein zulässiges Auswahlkriterium für Polizeikontrollen‘, Amicus curiae – Stellungnahme des Deutschen Instituts für Menschenrechte im Verfahren 7 A 10532/12.OVG vor dem Oberverwaltungsgericht Rheinland-Pfalz, October 2012, available at: (accessed on 13.01.2013).


Groups affected/interested
Type (R/D)
Key socio-economic / Institutional Areas Policing - law enforcement
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