Offenses against life

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The offenses against life are described in §§ 211–222 of the German Criminal Code (Section 16 of the Special Part of the Criminal Code). The term homicides is not identical with this, since homicides in the narrower sense only describe murder , manslaughter , killing on request and negligent homicide (possibly also genocide ).

In the past three decades, the number of crimes against life in Germany has decreased by more than a third.

Protected property

The legal good life (of the person) is protected by the facts . As in civil and public law, criminal law is linked to an independent termination of the protection of life. While constitutional law already grants basic rights protection to the cell heap after insemination, the ( civil ) legal capacity begins with the completion of the birth. The protection of life under criminal law, on the other hand, begins with the onset of labor pains (jurisprudence calls this the beginning of the birth act). It is therefore important that the child lived at this point in time. If actions are taken beforehand to deliberately damage the womb, the termination of pregnancy (Section 218 of the Criminal Code) is an element of the offense. In criminal law, the end of human life is marked not by biological death, but by brain death .


The term euthanasia ( Greek for good death ) encompasses both active and passive euthanasia as well as the murders of the sick during the time of National Socialism , for example in Action T4 . While any pain relief without shortening life is generally permissible, any other deliberately accepted shortening of life is punishable. Modern intensive care medicine in particular has raised new questions in this area that have not yet been convincingly resolved for criminal law studies.


In principle, suicide is unpunished in Germany (as in Switzerland). The legal asset of life should only be at the disposal of the legal owner. Therefore, participation (through aiding and abetting or incitement ) was not punishable until 2015 , since then the commercial promotion of suicide, Section 217 of the Criminal Code, has been punishable. However, several exceptions are recognized: If the voluntary formation of will is excluded in the case of suicides, the criminal liability of the third party (who instigates or supports suicide) as an indirect perpetrator comes into consideration (Section 25 (1) 2nd alternative StGB). Letting a suicide occur is generally subject to failure to provide assistance according to Section 323c of the Criminal Code. This is a so far unresolved contradiction to the impunity of suicide.

Danger to life

In principle, the threat to life is not comprehensively protected in German law as in Austria. In particular, the abstract risk to life is not anchored in the facts. Instead, the section on offenses against life only offers the offense of suspension (Section 221 of the Criminal Code), which requires a specific or qualified danger to life.

Numerous other offenses outside the section offer alternative offenses for endangering life as qualifications for success or real qualifications .

German crime statistics

Recorded cases of criminal offenses against life in the years 1987-2019 as a frequency number (per 100,000 inhabitants)

The crime statistics are currently showing fewer and fewer crimes against life. From 1993 to 2019, the frequency numbers fell from 6.3 to 3.7, a decrease of 42%.

This development in Germany follows the trend of a decrease in crime , which is observed at least in the countries of the Western world .


See also

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b Police crime statistics 2019 - time series overview of case tables. (xlsx, csv) Federal Criminal Police Office, accessed on March 30, 2020 .
  2. Michael Tonry: Why Crime Rates Are Falling Throughout the Western World . In: Crime & Justice . tape 43 , no. 1 , 2014, p. 1–2 , doi : 10.1086 / 678181 (English, alternative full text access : ).