Members of the German armed forces are subject to the civil criminal code and are tried for common criminal offenses in the civil court system. There are no military correction facilities; incarcerated military offenders serve their sentences in ordinary civilian prisons.
Therefore, all criminal offenses perpetrated by soldiers in Germany are adjudicated by courts of ordinary jurisdiction. Germany also exercises criminal jurisdiction over all offenses perpetrated by German soldiers while they are deployed abroad.
German criminal law consists of offenses governed by their Criminal Code, [Strafgesetzbuch] among them are offenses specifically applicable to soldiers, such as avoidance of military service or sabotage.
Soldiers enjoy the same civil rights and liberties possessed by other citizens. They are permitted to take an active part in political life, be members of political parties, and join trade unions and professional associations.
Offenses of a specifically military character committed by members of the Bundeswehr are tried in two military court divisions of the Federal Administrative Court and by three military disciplinary courts having a total of twenty-nine chambers. A civilian professional judge presides over each chamber, assisted by honorary military judges.
The chambers are the courts of first instance for disciplinary court proceedings against soldiers. The military courts of the Federal Administrative Court are the courts of appeal, each being composed of three civilian judges and two honorary military judges.
Sentences range from discharge from service to financial penalties to reduction in rank. The lowest level of offense, such as disobedience or unauthorized absence, may be dealt with informally in a soldier’s own unit.
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