However, are the "Last Generation" indeed a criminal group despite widespread raids and investigations? Among attorneys, this categorisation is debatable.

last generation germany
Last Generation members in Berlin

On Wednesday morning, authorities searched a total of 15 residences and rooms owned by "last generation" climate campaigners. The group's website was taken down, and assets and accounts were seized.

The Munich public prosecutor's office, or more specifically, the central office for combatting extremism and terrorism, came before the police action. Seven suspected group members are being looked into by her for involvement in or assistance of a criminal gang.

With this accusation, searches on climate activists have been conducted previously. However, it is debatable if the "Last Generation" is indeed a criminal group.

To ensure public safety, "criminal organization" regulations are in place

German criminal law allows for the prosecution of both individual offenses as well as the organizational foundation of such crimes. Anyone who founds or supports an organization of more than two individuals that is intended to commit crimes on a long-term basis is consequently subject to prosecution, as stated in Section 129 of the German Criminal Code (StGB). The crimes must be of a specific level of gravity.

The main goal of the clause is to safeguard public safety against buildings that can cause increased dangers. Right-wing extremists who had planned and executed deadly acts in previous years have received sentences for this.

Is Crime the main target?

There is little doubt that members of the "last generation" occasionally commit crimes while participating in protests. Road blockades, for instance, have been categorized as criminal coercion in a number of judgements and punitive decrees. On its website, the organization asserts that participation in the acts may subject participants to criminal prosecution.

However, it's debatable if the group's primary objective genuinely is the illegal activity. The group's main goal is to influence legislators to adopt greener policies. Even Berlin's public prosecutor's office acknowledged in a ruling that the activists' concerns "are in line with the state objective of protecting the natural foundations of life."

Additionally, not all intentional crimes qualify a group as a criminal organization. The sum of the activities must be more than a specific amount. Professor of criminal law at the University of Hamburg Milan Kuhli questions whether the protests of the "last generation" fit this description. When categorizing a criminal organization, he begs for caution:

At the moment I don't see any serious offenses that justify the assumption of a criminal organization. ---Milan Kuhli, Professor of Criminal Law at the University of Hamburg


An alternative evaluation is nonetheless feasible on this specific topic. This section of the Criminal Code was revised in 2017, increasing the criteria for what crimes qualify a group as a criminal organization.

Investigations have consequences 

In any event, Kuhli argues that it's critical that the designation of a group as a criminal organization be made by more than just law enforcement officials so that further action may be taken against its members.

But just this image may be given by the raids of today. Not only were the group's assets seized during the searches, but websites and email distribution lists are also claimed to have been taken down. Hard cutbacks, even if there has only been one probe to yet. The issue of whether the "Last Generation" actually represents a criminal organization has not yet been decided by a court.

If a court ruling is made, other participants may also be subject to legal action: "This can possibly already be assumed if they take part in a protest action of the last generation," Milan Kuhli concludes.

Source: Jan Hendrik/Laura Kress/ZDF
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