Updated: 18/08/12 : 08:41:35Printable Version
The German army will be allowed to use its weapons on the streets in extreme situations and as a last resort, the country's top court has said.
The Federal Constitutional Court ruled troops can be deployed in circumstances of "catastrophic proportions" - but cannot be mobilised against demonstrators.
The decision relaxes the rules for Germany's army, which is subject to tight controls that date back to the 1940s.
Previously, the German government could mobilise the army to give support to the police, but the use of military force inside the country was forbidden.
"This only affects exceptional situations of catastrophic proportions," the court said.
"The deployment of armed forces and the use of specific military defence mechanisms is only permissible as a last resort in such an emergency situation."
The use of the army both at home and abroad has been heavily restricted since the Second World War.
Adolf Hitler ruthlessly used paramilitary organisations to suppress dissent and persecute enemies during his 12-year dictatorship between 1933 and 1945.
The armed forces had to swear an oath of allegiance to Hitler, and could therefore be manipulated for political purposes.
Judges said the decision did not affect a 2006 ruling that it is illegal to shoot down a hijacked passenger plane.