Disparaging the German Federal President/Verunglimpfung des Bundespräsidenten

There’s a kind of defamation you can commit in Germany called Verunglimpfung des Bundespräsidenten. The old StGB translation called it Disparagement of the Federal President, the new one (by Bohlander) calls it Defamation of the Federal President. It’s like defamation in that, in Germany, it’s a criminal offence that can only be prosecuted on the application of the person who claims to have been defamed. There’s a discussion with Udo Vetter here on the risks of going to prison for making a joke about Wulff.

There was in fact a case coming up in Dresden in which someone was on trial for making a joke about Wulff and his wife, but I don’t need to go into that now because this evening it seems the President has had the proceedings dropped (Wulff will keinen Prozess mehr).

See section 90 here:

It comes under the category of offences endangering the democratic state under the rule of law.

Section 90

Defamation of the President of the Federation

(1) Whosoever publicly defames the President of the Federation, in a meeting or through the dissemination of written material (section 11 (3)) shall be liable to imprisonment from three months to five years.

(2) In less serious cases the court in its discretion may mitigate the sentence (section 49 (2)) unless the conditions of section 188 are met.

(3) The penalty shall be imprisonment from six months to five years if the act constitutes an intentional defamation (section 187) or if the offender by the act intentionally supports efforts against the continued existence of the Federal

Republic of Germany or against its constitutional principles.

(4) The offence may only be prosecuted upon the authorisation of the President of the Federation.

Verunglimpfen is a nice word. Unglimpf means insult or defamation. Glimpflich is a better-known word. There was a MHG verb gilimpfan: to behoove. As in: it behooved him to drop the proceedings before he risked further ridicule.

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