On July 7. 2021, a German judge directed the German Embassy in Washing D.C. to formally substantiate factual claims made by an American citizen that his human rights have been violated by the Florida sex offender registry and, by extension, the federal Adam Walsh Act.
In 1995 Steven Whitsett, an American citizen and university student, was convicted of engaging in a non-violent, consensual relationship with a teenager in Florida. Following completion of a prison sentence, rather than being released, he was transferred to a “secure treatment facility” (i.e. prison) to await determination whether he might pose a continuing threat to the community as a “sexually violent predator”. Believing that his civil rights were being violated, Whitsett escaped from the facility using an armed helicopter. After his capture, he was sentenced to 20 additional years in prison for armed escape.
In 2016, after serving a total of 22 years in prison, he was released. In 2018, he fled the United States and arrived in Germany where he sought the political protection of the German government. As part of his asylum request, Whitsett filed a complaint in a German court (Verwaltungsgericht) alleging that both his confinement in the civil treatment center (1999-2000) as well as the restrictions placed on his freedom by the sex offender registry (2016-present) violate several provisions of international human rights law.
In 2020, a hearing was held before the German court with representatives of the German Immigration Authority (Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge) attending. During the hearing, Whitsett presented documentary evidence in support of his claim that specific provisions of the sex offender registry violate human rights law including, but not limited to, freedom of movement within one’s own country, freedom to leave one’s own country, and freedom to enjoy privacy. Because of the judicial rules governing asylum cases, the American government was not invited to attend the hearing.
Nearly one year later, on July 7, 2021, the judge directed the German Foreign Ministry to substantiate certain factual matters by answering 11 specific questions concerning the allegations made by Whitsett in his asylum pleading. This marks the first time that a foreign government has investigated the United States for possible human rights violates stemming from the sex offender registry.