Violent Attack on Turkish Consulate-General in Hannover

Published: 2 April 2024  Author: Stefan Talmon

On the evening of 26 March 2024, Türkiye’s consulate-general in the city of Hannover was attacked by some twenty persons throwing stones at the building and hitting the windows with iron bars. The attack only lasted for about half a minute. Upon arrival of police the persons fled the scene on foot. No one was injured in the attack, but the building’s windows and main entrance door were damaged. Police arrested two suspects in the vicinity of the consulate- general, who were later released. The state security department of the police investigated the incident. Türkiye blamed sympathisers of the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), which had been outlawed in Germany as a terrorist organisation since 1993, for the attack. The Turkish Consul General requested increased security measures from police authorities for both the consulate- general and the offices of Turkish civil society groups. The incident was also raised with the German ambassador to Ankara.

On the next day, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Türkiye issued a statement which read in part:

On the night of 26 March, supporters of the PKK terrorist organisation attacked the entrance of the Consulate General of the Republic of Türkiye in Hannover. …

Following the attack, German officials were contacted and reminded that they are responsible for the security of our citizens and diplomatic missions …

We expect the countries concerned to show zero tolerance for the actions of the terrorist organisation’s supporters and to bring the perpetrators to justice as soon as possible.

Asked to comment on the incident, a spokesperson for the Federal Foreign Office stated that the identity of the masked attackers was not yet known, but that the Federal Government condemned the attack in the strongest terms. The spokesperson continued:

Violence of any kind has no place in our society, and that also applies to foreign missions in Germany, which are under special protection. We are of course in contact with the Turkish side on this issue, and we hope that the perpetrators will be quickly identified and brought to justice.

Later that day, the Federal Foreign Office also wrote on the platform X:

We strongly condemn the violent attack on the Turkish consulate-general in Hannover yesterday evening. The responsible authorities of the federal states are investigating. Embassies and consulates are under special protection. We are in contact with Türkiye about this.

The Turkish Government did not expressly criticise the German authorities for not preventing the attack, but the question could be asked whether Germany breached its obligations under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR) by not adequately protecting the consulate-general. The Convention, to which both Germany and Türkiye are parties, provides in Article 31(3):

… [T]he receiving State is under a special duty to take all appropriate steps to protect the consular premises against any intrusion or damage and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the consular post or impairment of its dignity.

If the receiving State fails to protect the consular premises against damage, it will be under an obligation to make full reparation for the injury caused. In this situation, full reparation for the injury caused by the internationally wrongful act may take the form of an expression of regret or formal apology, the payment of compensation, and a guarantee of effective protection against any repetition of the incident.

The crucial question is thus whether Germany failed to fulfil its obligation under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations to protect the Turkish consulate-general against any damage. The expression ‘special duty’ in Article 31(3) VCCR is used to ‘emphasize that the receiving State is required to take steps going beyond those normally taken in the discharge of its general duty to maintain public order’. The special duty to protect the mission premises against damage is, however, an obligation of conduct, not result.

There seemed to have been no police presence directly at the consulate-general at the time of the attack. However, it is not common practice to station police twenty-four hours in front of every consular premise. The question is whether police protection would have been a necessary measure to provide for the safety and security of the Turkish consulate-general under the circumstances prevailing at the time. The attack on the consulate-general coincided with a pro-Kurdish demonstration in Hannover earlier that day which was dissolved by police due to the showing of banned PKK flags and symbols and the unpeaceful behaviour of the demonstrators. The demonstrators left the area in small groups, but the police continued a strong presence in the city centre. It was more than two hours after the dissolution of the demonstration that the consulate-general was attacked. Demonstrations or gatherings by foreign opposition groups do not automatically lead to attacks on the diplomatic or consular missions of the foreign State concerned, especially if such gatherings or demonstrations are not held in the immediate vicinity of the mission premises. Without any specific indication of an impending attack, a police presence directly at the consulate-general did not seem necessary. In any case, it would be for Türkiye to prove that Germany failed to act with due diligence to prevent the attack on its consulate-general. There is no question of reversing the burden of proof in the context of Article 31(3) VCCR.

The Federal Government, as a rule, tries to avoid getting into a dispute over whether it provided adequate protection to a foreign consular mission by paying as an act of courtoisie, on an ex gratia basis, compensation for any damage to the mission premises caused by persons acting for political motives. Such payment is made upon a formal request by the foreign State, and any ex gratia payment is made on the basis of reciprocity only.


Category: Diplomatic and consular relations

DOI: 10.17176/20240402-230627-0


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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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