The Protection of Parliaments from the Perspective of Security Management
The example of the Federal Republic of Germany
Translation of a German article from Prof. Dr. André Röhl – Northern Business School
The Capitol in Washington D.C. was stormed by Trump supporters on January 06, 2021.
The violent riots around the Capitol in Washington D.C., the seat of the U.S. Congress, demonstrate the special importance of protecting political institutions. The protection of parliaments is subject to special challenges. In Germany, too, there were disruptions in and around the Bundestag last year.
Parliaments are a constituent element of a representative democracy. In them, elected representatives debate political issues and pass laws. Legislation forms the basis for the executive powers of the state and is the yardstick for judicial power. The work of parliaments is therefore of outstanding importance for a democratic state. This gives rise to requirements for the organization of parliamentary work, which result in special needs for protection against disruptions and special framework conditions for security measures.
The principle of separation of powers is a fundamental feature. In accordance with the organizational separation of state powers, the police, as part of the executive power, are not allowed to operate within the sphere of responsibility of a parliament without further ado. Instead, the principle laid down for the first time in the Weimar Reich Constitution applies that the presidents of a parliament simultaneously exercise police power over the buildings and properties assigned to the parliament. For the Bundestag, this principle is laid down in Article 40 (2) of the Basic Law, according to which the presidents of parliament exercise both domestic authority and police power, and police or prosecutorial measures must be approved by them. At the same time, however, this also means that typical police measures to avert danger are also the responsibility of Parliament. In the Bundestag, these tasks are primarily performed by the independent Bundestag police.
The state parliaments largely follow these regulations, although they have not set up their own police authorities. Instead, police or public order powers and domiciliary rights are exercised by employees of the state parliament administration, by using security service companies and by coordinating support services through the respective state police.
Irrespective of the organization, there are other special features to be observed in a parliament from the point of view of security management. For example, the work of parliamentarians is subject to special protection, which is expressed, among other things, in immunity - protection from prosecution - and indemnity - protection from prosecution based on a vote or speech in parliament. In this regard, immunity can be waived by Parliament, but indemnity cannot, as long as the statements are not defamatory and disparaging. Similarly, certain premises, such as MPs' offices, are specially protected. The tasks and competencies of those responsible for security in each case must be adapted to these legal framework conditions.
Other key tasks arise from the importance of parliaments in terms of state organization. These include information security as well as ensuring that discussions and events are open to the public, compliance with house rules as a framework for parliamentary work, and ensuring that parliamentarians and staff can continue to work. In this context, the different areas of responsibility can certainly lead to conflicting goals. However, a reduction of individual risks by means of technical or structural isolation, which is conceivable in other organizations, would contradict the basic idea of parliamentary democracy. Other tasks can arise from the use of parts of the building for events or museums, as is the case with the "most beautiful seat of the state parliament in Germany," Schwerin Castle.
A look at the past shows, using the example of the Bundestag, which challenges can arise in practice. For example, the variety of ID categories posed a problem for controlling access authorizations, a partial power outage due to a cable being cut during a construction project had to be compensated for, and hacker attacks had to be dealt with. It must also always be taken into account that a parliament is a living organization whose composition changes at regular intervals. All in all, ensuring the security of a parliament is thus a rarely considered, but nevertheless multi-layered and challenging field of activity.
Prof. Dr. André Röhl is head of the Security Management program (B.A.) and worked from 2009 to 2011 as an internal affairs officer at the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern state parliament administration, where he dealt with issues of security in parliaments.
The NBS Northern Business School - University of Applied Services is a state-recognized university that offers full-time degree programs as well as degree programs accompanying vocational training and education in Hamburg. The current range of courses includes Business Administration (B.A.), Security Management (B.A.), Social Work (B.A.), Business Management (M.A.) and Real Estate Management (M.Sc.). www.nbs.de