In Germany the Strafgesetzbuch goes back to the Penal Code of the German Empire passed in the year 1871 on May 15 in Reichstag which was largely identical to the Penal Code of the North German Confederation. It came into effect on January 1, 1872.
This Reichsstrafgesetzbuch (Imperial Criminal Law) was changed many times in the following decades in response not only to changing moral concepts and constitutional provision granted by the Grundgesetz, but also to scientific and technical reforms. Examples of such new crimes are money laundering or computer sabotage.
The Penal Code is a codification of criminal law and the pivotal legal text, while supplementary laws contain provisions affecting criminal law, such as definitions of new types of crime and law enforcement action. The StGB constitutes the legal basis of criminal law in Germany.
In the wake of the Third Reich a number of prohibiting provisions were included in the Strafgesetzbuch:
- Friedensverrat ("treason to peace"): preparation of a war of aggression (§ 80) and incitement to a war of aggression (§ 80a)
- dissemination of means of propaganda of unconstitutional organizations (§ 86)
- use of symbols of unconstitutional organizations (§86a)
- incitement to hatred against segments of the population (Volksverhetzung) (§130)
In 2002 German public prosecutors were empowered to prosecute crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide internationally under the Völkerstrafgesetzbuch ("Code of Crimes against international Law"). Another special penal code is the Wehrstrafgesetz to prosecute special crimes within military service such as insubordination (§20 WStG) and desertion (§16 WStG).