On the night of October 23, both the residence of the Argentine Embassy and the Consulate General in Santiago de Chile were exposed to a violent situation [Spanish], when a group of people protesting in the streets, whose number ranged between 50 and 150 according to different sources, attacked the premises of the diplomatic and consular missions of Argentina.
People were demonstrating after the death of Santiago Maldonado outside these missions. At a certain point, they took a bus, set it on fire and blocked the Vicuña Mackenna Ave. [Spanish] where the missions are. Then, part of this large group of people destroyed objects on the public road, destroyed the entrance gate of the residence and caused important damages to the premises on the ground floors of both the residence and the consulate, including to a vehicle that was parked there. There were no [Spanish] personal injuries.
The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (CVDR) [PDF] establishes that the receiving State, in this case Chile, "is under a special duty to take all appropriate steps to protect the premises of the mission against any intrusion or damage and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the mission or impairment of its dignity" (Art. 22.2). A similar provision is contained in the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR) [PDF] (Art. 31.3).
The protection granted is not absolute, since the VCDR requires the adoption of "all appropriate steps", which should be interpreted as the adoption of all measures proportional to the risk to the security of the occasion. This obligation may be reflected in the adoption of special internal laws or may be left to the police action, depending on the circumstances of the case.
Generally, the protection is carried out by the security forces of the receiving State through certain monitoring of the premises of the mission. When it is presumed that hostile demonstrations may occur because of the state of public opinion or the existence of some tension, the receiving State should strengthen police protection. If it does not do so and the mission is damaged, the receiving State may be liable.
The receiving State does not compromise its international responsibility by tolerating certain types of manifestations. But where a receiving State has failed in its duty to protect against intrusion or damage to the premises of the diplomatic and consular missions, it is clearly liable to pay reparations to the sending State, in this case Argentina, for the damages suffered, as Argentina did when a demonstration protesting the Armenian genocide caused damage to the premises of the residence of the Turkish ambassador in Buenos Aires in 2002.
The demonstration was disbanded and two people were arrested by the Carabineros (Chilean police), which is conducting an investigation into the events. Chilean Foreign Minister Heraldo Muñoz condemned [Spanish] the incident, calling it unacceptable to his Government, recalled that the diplomatic and consular missions are inviolable and apologized. He stated that additional measures will be taken to ensure security and to prevent the repetition of these events.
However, he left the door open for Chile to be exempt from international responsibility by saying that the event was "something massive" [Spanish], implying a circumstance that went out of control of the Chilean Government precluding wrongfulness in this situation. The Argentine Government, through its Ministry of Foreign Affairs, transmitted [Spanish] its deep concern for this violent attack.
It is still premature to reach any conclusion. It will be necessary to wait for the report of the Carabineros and the position of Chile to this event, which both countries have affirmed will not affect the good relations and the cooperation between them.
Ricardo Arredondo is a Professor of Public International Law at the School of Law, University of Buenos Aires and the author of Derecho Diplomatico y Consular, Abeledo-Perrot, Buenos Aires, 2016.
Suggested citation:Ricardo Arredondo, Attack Against the Argentine Embassy in Chile: A Violation of International Law, JURIST — Academic Commentary, Nov. 7, 2017, http://jurist.org/academic/2017/11/ricardo-arredondo-argentine-embassy-attack.php.
This article was prepared for publication by Sean Merritt, an Assistant Editor for JURIST Commentary. Please direct any questions or comments to him at email@example.com