FECL 05 (April 1992):

BERLIN LABOUR COURT GIVES A BLOW TO INQUISITION PROCEDURES AGAINST STASI-SUSPECTS: DISMISSAL OF THE HUMBOLDT UNIVERSITY'S VICE-CHANCELLOR HEINRICH FINK INVALIDATED

The dismissal of the professor of theology and vice-chancellor of the formerly East German univerity by the Berlin state ministry of science and research was unlawful and Mr Fink must be reappointed. The verdict constitutes a reversal of previous jurisdiction and a first important victory in the vice-chancellor's fight for fair procedures in dealing with alleged Stasi-collaboration. It furthermore highlights the importance of common European intervention for the defence of civil liberties.

Heinrich Fink was dismissed without notice at the direct initiative of the Berlin Senator (minister) for Science and research, Prof. Manfred Erhardt, after the Gauck-administration in charge of the files of the former East German state security, the Stasi, had leaked information allegedly indicating Stasi involvment of Mr Fink to the press. The "Fink case" led to a massive movement of solidarity for the fired theologian, known for his courageous stands against authoritarian government before and after the fall of the wall. Recently, an international delegation of the European Civic Forum, led by the Belgian MEP, Prof. Lode van Outrive had sharply criticized the "inquisition trials" led in a climate of witch-hunting against Fink and others accused of alleged Stasi-collaboration (see FECL No.4: The "destasification" of Germany: Inquisition procedures versus fair trial).

The presiding judge of the labour court, Bernd Kiessling declared in his oral motivation of the decision, that the incriminating documents presented by the Gauck administration lacked argumentative force, as they merely consisted of reports by officers of the Stasi reporting on what they had allegedly heard from a source named "Heiner". According to the Gauck administration, "Heiner" was a cover name for Heinrich Fink.

Judge Kiessling held the view that only documents written or at least signed by Fink personally could have been considered as solid evidence.

It also appears that the court lent more credibility to Fink's recital of the facts, according to which he might have been observed, filed and used as a source of information by Stasi against his will and without his knowledge. Hans Joachim Gauck, the head of the Gauck administration, himself had occasionally acknowledged that such could not be excluded and stated that a "thorough exploration of the background [of the Stasi records on Fink] (was) impossible with such a meagre information situation."

The legal adviser of the Berlin Senate immediately announced that he would appeal against the decision and a further decision on Fink's removal from office as a vice-chancellor is pending at the Berlin administrative court.

Professor Fink himself declared that he would await the decisions of the "democratically elected bodies of the university" before planning further steps.

At the end of April the academic senate of Humboldt is expected to name its candidates for the election of a vice-chancellor. The election is to take place on June 6. It had earlier been scheduled for November 92, but been postponed by the universities bodies in protest against Fink's removal from office. The university's bodies declared that an election would take place only once the accusations against Fink had been examined by a court.

N.B.

 

Sources: Berliner Morgenpost, 2.4.92; Frankfurter Rundschau, 2.4.92; Neues Deutschland, 1.4.92