Britta Böhler (17 July 1960 in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany) is a lawyer in international law and human rights, and a former member of the Dutch Senate for the GreenLeft Party. She was born in West Germany and became a Dutch citizen to run for political office.
Youth & Study
Böhler was born in Freiburg, West Germany. Her father was the financial director of a publishing house and her mother, a civil servant. Both her parents were members of the Social Democratic Party of Germany.
After attending public grammar school and the Goethe Gymnasium, Böhler began the study of law and philosophy in 1979 at the Albert-Ludwigs Universität in Freiburg. She chose law because it would allow her flexibility in the Germany of the seventies. Between 1979 and 1980 she also studied economics, and between 1980 and 1982, political science. In 1984, she graduated in law, specializing in criminal law. During her studies she became sympathetic toward the people of Palestine, and Marxism.
In 1985 she became a lawyer in Munich. She also was a referendar, (a type of associate in a law office) and PhD candidate in law. In 1989 she became a lawyer at the law firm Peat Marwick in Frankfurt am Main, working mainly in corporate law. In 1991, she moved to Amsterdam, where she was employed at Loeff Claeys Verbeke (now Loyens & Loeff). In 1992, Böhler received a PhD in law from Albert-Ludwigs Universität: having written a thesis on the legal philosopher, Gerhart Husserl: Leben und Werk (Life and Work).
In 1994 she served as an observer at the South African general elections, the first elections after the dismantling of Apartheid. South Africa and its people left a strong impression on Böhler and led her to politicize her practice of law. Between 1994 and 1995 she was a lawyer at Van den Biessen en Prakke, a left wing law firm. In 1995 she became a partner at Böhler Franken Koppe Wijngaarden, a law firm that works on "the border between politics and law", where she specialized in international law and human rights.
There, she worked on several political cases. These are cases in which, according to Böhler, the case "is about more than the hearing the trial of a crime, where political aspect, the history and the motivation of the client matter. Böhler defended PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan since 1998 and Volkert van der Graaf, the murderer of Pim Fortuyn, since 2002. She represented people who did not want Jorge Zorreguieta to attend the marriage of his daughter Máxima Zorreguieta and crown prince Willem-Alexander. In 2005 she defended Samir Azzouz, member of the Hofstadgroep. She also was legal counsel for Ayaan Hirsi Ali during the crisis about her nationality.
In 2004 she published two books De zwerftocht van een leider: Achter de schermen van de zaak Öcalan on the case of Öcalan and Crisis in de rechtsstaat. Spraakmakende zaken, verborgen processen about the development of the Dutch rechtsstaat.
Böhler has received several awards for her work, including the Dean Award for best lawyer in Amsterdam in 2003 and the Clara Wichmann prize in 2005. In 2003 she appeared on the program "Zomergasten", a 4 hour marathon interview.
In addition to her work as a lawyer, Böhler also held several positions in civil society. Between 1994 and 1999, she was secretary of Greenpeace Netherlands, between 2002 and 2003, she was chair. Between 1995 and 2003, she was a member of the board of Lawyers for Lawyers.
Member of the Senate
In November 2006, Böhler announced that she wanted to run for senate as a member of the GreenLeft party. In 2006 she had advised the Socialist Party on their election program. She changed to GreenLeft because "self realization and the individual take a central place in their program and because the party pays close attention to the conservation and defense of the principles of the Rechtsstaat". In February 2007 she was placed on second place on the list, behind Tof Thissen. In order to run for office, Böhler had to obtain Dutch citizenship. She was elected to the Senate in 2007.
In the Senate, Böhler manages the portfolios of finance, defense and justice and agriculture. She held her maiden speech on the law on police records.
She is a member of the committees on European Cooperation, Finance, Justice, Agriculture, Nature and food quality, Social affairs and employment, Defense, Development cooperation and housing, Spatial planning and the environment / housing and integration, as well as the committee on Justice and Home Affairs Council, which oversees Police and Judicial Co-operation in Criminal Matters of the European Union,.
- "Gerhart Husserl: Leben und Werk" (1992, thesis)
- "De zwerftocht van een leider: Achter de schermen van de zaak Öcalan" (2004)
- "Crisis in de rechtspraak. Spraakmakende zaken, verborgen processen" (2004)