Consular protection of German nationals in prison, custody or detention

Published: 31 December 2017 Author: Stefan Talmon

In response to a parliamentary question on 26 January 2018 the Federal Government declared that German diplomatic and consular missions provided consular protection to 2,867 German nationals in prison, custody or detention in foreign countries in 2017. The right to provide consular protection to nationals in prison, custody or detention is enshrined in Article 36, paragraph 1(c) of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. The number of cases in which Germany provided consular protection has constantly risen over the years (2012: 2,459 cases; 2013: 2,636 cases; 2014: 2,720 cases; 2015: 2,633 cases; 2016: 2,694 cases). On the practice of providing consular protection the Federal Government declared:

“In addition to regular visits by consular officers and the arrangement for legal representation, consular assistance generally includes – if necessary and desired –  liaison with relatives, legal counsel and the authorities of the receiving State. The diplomatic and consular missions also observe whether the foreign authorities and courts adequately adhere to principles of the rule of law in criminal proceedings against German nationals and take up possible grievances with the local authorities.”

The Federal Government also declared that it does not maintain any statistics on Germans being detained abroad for political reasons.

The exercise of diplomatic protection always depends on the individual case. For example, in the high-profile case of German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel, who was held in Turkey in pre-trial detention without formal indictment for more than a year, diplomatic and consular officers visited the detainee eight times, that is, at intervals of every six weeks. The Federal Government, however, admitted that “this perhaps was not, so to speak, a classic case of consular assistance.”

Category: Diplomatic and consular protection

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  • Stefan Talmon

    Stefan Talmon is Professor of Public Law, Public International Law and European Union Law, and Director at the Institute of Public International Law at the University of Bonn. He is also a Supernumerary Fellow of St. Anne’s College, Oxford, and practices as a Barrister from Twenty Essex, London. He is the editor of GPIL.

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