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Germany asked to stop castrating sex criminals

By Christopher Cottrell, For CNN
February 23, 2012 -- Updated 1743 GMT (0143 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Council of Europe says surgical castration may qualify as "degrading treatment"
  • The procedure is voluntary for sex offenders in Germany
  • The Czech Republic is the only other member of the Council of Europe to perform the procedure

Berlin (CNN) -- Europe's top human rights watchdog has urged Germany to stop offering sexual offenders the option of surgical castration.

The Council of Europe's anti-torture committee said in a report issued Wednesday that the practice, which aims to help convicted sex criminals rein in their sex drives and lower their risk of reoffending, could easily be regarded as "degrading treatment."

According to Germany's 1969 Law on Voluntary Castration, a person over the age of 25 may be subjected to surgical castration if he "displays an abnormal sex drive, which ... gives reason to suspect that he will commit one or more criminal offenses."

The controversial procedure is not mandatory and a consensual offender can only have the operation after being informed of all the implications of the decision and after medical approval has been obtained, Germany said in its response, adding that it would consider reviewing the issue.

But Berlin also cited the treatment's effectiveness, saying that of the 104 people who underwent the procedure in the 1970s, only three people committed sexual crimes again. Nearly half of the 53 others who refused or were denied treatment eventually reoffended.

Voluntary castration is still very rare in Germany, with fewer than five cases per year in the last decade.

The only other country in the 47-nation bloc of the Council of Europe that offers the process is the Czech Republic, which has also been the subject of criticism in recent years for allowing sex offenders to opt for castration, a procedure it uses far more frequently than Germany.

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