Petition: Call for an independent commission to investigate the causes leading up to the death of Oury Jalloh

Oury Jalloh: The Petition Call and Demonstration, 13.08.2009 in Magdeburg

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The VOICE Refugee Forum Jena

Demonstration Against Racist Police Brutality and Call for an independent
commission to investigate the causes leading up to the death of Oury
Jalloh in the Police Cell of Dessau in Germany >>>

Petition: Call for an independent commission to investigate the causes leading up to the death of Oury Jalloh

Oury Jalloh, chained at his hands and feet, burned alive on January 7, 2005, in Cell No. 5 of the police station in Dessau

Re: Petition to human rights organizations

Enquiry: Call for an independent commission to investigate the causes leading up to the death of Oury Jalloh

Petitioners: INITIATIVE IN MEMORY OF OURY JALLOH and affected African/Black Communities in Germany


Oury Jalloh was detained on the morning of January 7 by Dessau police officers and taken to Cell No. 5 of the police station. There he was chained at hands and feet to a fireproof mattress, where he died shortly after midday. Oury Jalloh was an African who fled from endless wars on his Continent. He first abandoned his home country of Guinea to flee to Sierra Leone, before fleeing once again in search of safety in Germany.

Following his death, the authorities in Dessau made arrangements to return the burned corpse to Guinea without informing the African communities. The Black Community in Dessau was outraged and immediately began a vehement protest. Among other demands, they insisted that an investigation of the circumstances surrounding Oury Jalloh's death be carried out before the dead body be repatriated to Africa.

The bodily injuries such as the broken nose and damaged middle ear were first found in the second autopsy and not in the first autopsy authorized by the authorities. In addition, the remains of a lighter, which was the alleged cause of the fire, were only found in a second inventory done of the fire items found in Cell No. 5. Even today the issue of the lighter is extremely controversial; although the lighter has become a symbol for the death of Oury Jalloh and the unanswered questions, the court undertook no efforts to shed light on the truth.

The trial

The District Court of Dessau initially refused to open proceedings due to insufficient evidence. The resistance and persistence of the Initiative in Memory of Oury Jalloh together with the African and Black communities as well as many diverse individuals who identified the injustice of this case, however, forced the District Court of Dessau to open proceedings on March 27, 2007.

From the very beginning of the trial, the District Court of Dessau was confronted with the contradictions of the police officers and the disappearance of key pieces of evidence. One of the key witnesses, police officer Beate Höffner, who was present at the time of the crime and shared a shift with the main accused Schubert, confirmed that at 11:30 a.m she heard noises and movements coming out of Cell No. 5 via the intercom system and also saw this visually via the video surveillance system. Oury Jalloh burned to death a few minutes past 12 noon.

Police officer Höffner further goes on to states that the fire alarm was shut off on two subsequent occasions and that she heard the faint cry of Oury Jalloh, "Fire! Fire!" The witness claims that Andreas Schubert, the main accused, turned off the alarm and complained that it was too loud to hear his telephone conversation. Hans-Ulrich März, the second accused, confirmed in the trial that Oury Jalloh had previously been treated ruthlessly, chained at his hands and feet and left alone in the basement. The police officers retracted previous statements and even changed them in the public trial. Everything that Judge Steinhoff has to say to this respect is that this [i.e. Germany] is not a Banana Republic. In doing so he demonstrated his anger rather than ensuring justice in the face of the contradictions of the public officials. By asserting Murphy's Law (i.e. when soemthing goes wrong then everything will go wrong in the worst of manners and at the worst possible time), it was clear to him that such statements only serve to further offend the Africans and to place the police officers in an even worse light in this possible case of murder.

From April to July, 2008, reports were made for the third and fourth reconstructions of the fire under conditions similar to those in Cell No. 5 at the time of Oury Jalloh's death. A gas igniter was used for the third attempt (and not a lighter), yet it did not catch fire. Instead, the the protective cover of the mattress folded inwards and the fire extinguished itself. The fire specialists were required to set the mattress on fire a second time. In spite of all this, at no time did the court react in a consequent manner to investigate and clarify this evidence.

On December 8, 2008, Judge Manfried Steinhoff acquitted both of the accused. He saw in the acquittal a sort of emergency solution: "We never had the chance to carry out a trial pursuant to the rule of law, to clarify the circumstances of the case," he said in his rendition of judgment at the District Court of Dessau. Adding that, "The trial has been a failure," Steinhoff accused the police of Dessau of "slopiness," describing the "falsified testimonies of the police officers" as "appalling." According to the judge, such police officers only harm the image of Sachsen-Anhalt and "had no reason to be there." Nevertheless, during the entire trial the judge did nothing to remedy this situation.


Based on the irregularities which have characterized this trial and the decision of the court to present Oury Jalloh as a criminal, focusing on his behavior instead of the illegal detention and the causes of his death, the Initiative in Memory of Oury Jalloh and the African / Black Community are convinced that informal agreements were made between the police officers in Dessau and the court. The purpose of such activities was to cover up the true course of developments on January 7, 2005, which are imbedded in the institutional system of racism and discrimination in Germany.

Among other aspects, we sharply criticize and denounce the following:

1) The practically collective refusal of the police officers involved to answer decisive questions in front of the court and always responding that they cannot remember anything hindered the possibility to find out the truth. This fact was complicated even more by the numerous falsified testimonies which, without exception, went unpunished.

2) The illegal coterie of the police officers during the trial in Dessau hindered justice in a premeditative manner, something that a court, considered to be a competent institution for ensuring and enforcing the rule of law, should never have allowed.

3) The investigations surrounding the process and the handling of the trial do not correspond with the methods of an independent and democratic institution which is there to guarantee a democratic procedure and which is responsible for clarifying the circumstances surrounding a murder. The investigations were performed in an extremely negligent manner and the essential questions surrounding the circumstances of death still remain unanswered even today:

i)"Overlooked" observations were first found in the second, independent autopsy organized by the Initiative in Memory of Oury Jalloh.
ii)The remains of the lighter were only discovered in the second inventory performed by the police investigation group.
iii)Only 4 1/2 minutes of video are left of a recording which allegedly lasted more than one hour.
iv)During the fire reconstruction the mattress had to be set on fire twice in order to even burn.
v)The handcuffs used to chain Oury Jalloh's right hand to the wall are missing.
vi)The causes of death still remain unclear.

4.) In light of the above, we seriously regret the decision of the court to concentrate on the least of all possible hypotheses put forth by the State Prosecutor from the very beginning to the very end of the trial (22 months and 59 hearings): Oury Jalloh burned himself to death.

Yet this is not the only aspect which evidences that the trial was a farce. The indictment itself demonstrates that the authorities were on the wrong path from the very beginning; it was supposed that Oury Jalloh committed suicide although the evidence very much pointed to murder. What objective did the court pursue by ignoring essential questions which could have shed a light on Oury Jalloh's death?

Unanswered question such as:
How did a lighter make it into the cell although Oury Jalloh had previously been thoroughly searched?
Why did the corpse of Oury Jalloh have a broken nose, one which no one had discovered previously?
How can a person who is chained at his hands and feet set fire to an extremely difficult to incinerate mattress?
How can a second pair of handcuffs which is considered to be a piece of evidence simply have been thrown away?
Where is the video of the police investigation group and how can it simply disappear?


1) We demand an independent commission to independently investigate the causes of Oury Jalloh's death, the reason for his detention and being chained up on the day of January 7, 2005, together with the entire trial itself. This could serve as a precedent for other case of lethal police violence against people of non-German heritage which until today remain in impunity.

2) The trial of the District Court of Dessau evidences more than ever that the German authorities are uncapable or unwilling of working independently of one anohter. The esprit de corps within the police and the associated institutions is greater than the legitimimacy of the police to clarifiy the circumstances of a murder. This is why the commission should independently investigate the instances of abuse, violence and cover-up related to the case of Oury Jalloh and which have been executed both by the police as well as the court.

3) The independent commission should put pressure on the German system and the government to ensure a fair trial. The commission should investigate and denounce the behavior of the police officers and thus set a precedence against prejudices and discrimination within the police.

4) The independent commission should also investigate the persecution suffered by the activists and all those who have engaged in the struggle for truth and justice. In particular, the case of Mouctar Bah, who founded the Initiative in Memory of Oury Jalloh and who has been the victim of death threates and harassment, should be investigated intensively. Official and non-official institutions, people from both the right-wing extremists and the NPD put pressure on him with the purpose of hindering justice.

5.) Germany is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as several other relevant conventions and supposedly guarantees protection of human life. As such, Germany is responsible for the human rights violations and murder of refugees and migrants within its borders. Subsequently, Germany should be held responsible for the criminal behavior of its police officers before an international court.

6.) The Initiative in Memory of Oury Jalloh believes that all democratic societies and human rights organizations should not allow for such human rights abuses like those seen in the case of Oury Jalloh and thus calls on all communities to become engaged to demand justice from the District Court of Dessau as well as all other German courts.

7.) The findings of the independent commission should be presented to all human rights organizations and institutions both in Germany and abroad so that measures may be taken to combat the human rights violations against migrants in Germany which have already led to many deaths. In addition, the racist collaboration between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of German government should be investigated and the results made public.

This is the concern of the following signatories.
The Initiative in Memory of Oury Jalloh
The African/Black Communities in Germany

Press release: Berlin, May 17, 2009 PR Initiative in Memory of Oury Jalloh continues efforts to establish an independent international commission.
Petition: Call for an independent commission to investigate the causes leading up to the death of Oury Jalloh.
French: Presse: L´initiative en mémoire d´Oury Jalloh : vers la création d´une Commission d’Enquête Internationale Indépendante (CEI).
Turkish: Oury Jalloh’un ölüm sebebini araştıracak bağımsız bir komisyonun oluşturulması