Border guards convicted

Issue 

Border guards convicted

By Bryan R. Thomas

BONN — Two former East German border guards were pronounced guilty of manslaughter on January 20 for shooting dead Chris Gueffroy when he attempted to escape over the Berlin Wall. Gueffroy, a 20-year-old waiter, was the last of 200 East German would-be escapers to be killed from the time the wall was constructed in 1961 until the 1989 revolution.

The Berlin superior court said the defendants, Ingo Heinrich and Andreas Kühnpast, both aged 27, should have refused their orders to shoot at Gueffroy. Heinrich was jailed for three and a half years and Kühnpast received a two-year suspended sentence. The presiding judge ruled that they had both violated the basic human rights law of the GDR constitution.

The man who gave the orders to shoot and two other defendants were acquitted.

The sentence surprised most Germans, including Karin Gueffroy, the victim's mother, because the prosecution had demanded only suspended sentences. The panel of judges established the legal precedent that western law could be applied to prosecute actions that were legal under a regime that no longer exists. This and their declaration that "what is law is not always justice", now leaves the way open for 200 similar cases.

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