Britta Böhler is a German-born lawyer and former member of the Dutch Senate for the GreenLeft Party (GroenLinks). She was in office 2007-2011, after having obtained Dutch citizenship.
Her legal specialization is criminal law, international law and human rights.
Böhler has received several awards for her legal and activist work, including the 2005 Clara Wichmann prize and the 2003 Dean Award for best lawyer in Amsterdam.
Between 1995 and 2003, Böhler was a boardmember for Lawyers for Lawyers.
She was secretary of Greenpeace Netherlands in 1994-1999, and chair between 2002 and 2003.
Britta Böhler was born in Freiburg im Breisgau, West Germany, on the 17th of July, 1960. Both her parents were members of the Social Democratic Party of Germany. The mother worked as a civil servant and the father was a financial director for a publishing house.
As a child, Böhler attended a public grammar school and the Goethe Gymnasium.
In 1979, Böhler commenced her university studies in Freiburg, at the Albert-Ludwigs Universität where she studied law and economics. Between 1980 and 1982, she studied politic science, before graduating in law in 1984, with a specialization in criminal law.
During her time at university, Böhler became a symptazier of Marxism and sided with Palestine in the Palestine-Israel conflict.
Lawyer in Germany
In 1985, Böhler started working as a lawyer in Munich. She became a referendar, which is a type of associate in a German law office. Simultaneously, she was a phD candidate in law.
In 1989, she left Munich for Frankfurt am Main, where she was employeed by the law firm Peat Marwick.
Lawyer in the Netherlands
The early years
Böhler moved to the Netherlands in 1991 to work for Loeff Clayes Verbeke in Amsterdam. The following year, she received her phD in law from Albert-Ludwigs Universität. Her doctoral thesis was titled “Gerhard Husserl: Leben und Werk”. (Gerhard Husserl was a German legal scholar and philospher who taught law at the University of Kiel from 1926 to 1933, and at the University of Washintong, USA from 1940 to 1948.)
In 1994, Böhler started working for a politically left-leaning law firm in the Netherlands named Van den Biessen en Prakke. This change came about after she had stayed in South Africa to observe the country’s first general election after the dismantling of Apartheid. The South African experience had a strong impression on Böhler, who became much more politically active after returning to the Netherlands.
In 1995, Böhler became a parter at Böhler Franken Koppe Wijngaarden, a law firm that describes itselft as working on “the border between politics and law”. Now, Böhler could specialize in human rights and international law, and work on many high-profile court cases, such as:
- Defending the PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan
- Defending Volkert van der Graaf, the man who murdered Pim Fortuyn
- Defending Samir Azzouz, a Dutch national of Moroccan descent who was eventually sentenced to nine years imprisonment for participation in a criminal organization and punishable preparation of a terrorist crime
- Being the legal councel for the Somali-born Dutch activist and politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali after it had been uncovered that she had lied on the application that granted her asylum in the Netherlands.
Böhler also gained a lot of media attention when she advocated for having the Argenitinian politician Jorge Zorreguieta banned from atteding the wedding of his daughter Máxiam Zorreguieta and the Dutch crown prince Willem-Alexander.
Member of the Dutch Senate
In 2006, Böhler was an advisor for the Socialist Party, but she eventually switched alligances to the GreenLeft Party, stating that “ 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 November 2006, she announced that she wanted to run for senate as a member of the GreenLeft. In order to be eligable, she had to become a citizen of the Netherlands.
Böhler was placed on placce #2 on the GreenLeft list in February 2007, just below Tof Thissen. That same year she was elected to the Senate. Her maiden speech concerned police record law.
Böhler’s focus areas within the Senate included finance, defense, justice and agriculture.
Books written by Britta Böhler
- De zwerftocht van een leider: Achter de schermen van de zaak Öcalan.
Published in 2004.
This book is about the Abdulla Öcalan case.
- Crisis in de rechtsstaat. Spraakmakende zaken, verborgen processen
Published in 2004
This book is about the development of the legal system in the Netherlands