East Geman border guard: Let him go. Essay

2186 Words 9 Pages
My fellow justices of the court, we find ourselves at a crossroads, advised to convict of murder a man whose prior government would have lauded, not punished, him for his actions. We must weigh the unjust loss of a human life against the injustice of convicting a man under an ex post facto law. Hans’ death is a terrible tragedy, but we must rule with respect to our system’s principles and reverse the lower court’s decision.

This man’s former superiors, both his commanding officers and his government, emphasized that, whatever happened, it was better to kill a man than let him escape across the border. The border guard’s government pardoned the use of deadly force against any man attempting to commit a felony within a border guard’s
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For example, if a guard prevented an escape, even if a killing resulted, the government rewarded that guard with cash rewards, medals and special leaves of absence.

There was some shame in killing a person, however. The government removed the offending guard’s name from the service record, and the guard did not wear army clothes or insignias to avoid societal ostracism. The government had a blanket media blackout on any escapee deaths along the border. In an almost Orwellian fashion, all evidence of killed escapees’ existences were expunged, their families told they had committed suicide.

Besides covering up the killings, the East German government also refused to prosecute guards who killed escapees, even in instances of excessive force. Though East German law permitted use of deadly force only when an escapee was joined by multiple perpetrators or tried to escape using “dangerous means,” it was an unwritten rule that guards should shoot and kill escapees rather than allow them to escape. This law descended from both commanding officers’ insistence on killing escapees to prevent escape and the government’s refusal to ever charge offenders. Even though there were provisions on the books allowing killings only in certain instances, parts of the law legitimately came from these unwritten rules.

Under a positivist theory of law, the unwritten parts of East German law were just as legitimate as the law “on

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