The Deportees of Malta and the Armenian Question

////The Deportees of Malta and the Armenian Question

The Deportees of Malta and the Armenian Question

By  Ambassador (Ret.) Bilal N. Simsir
(From Proceedings of Symposium on Armenians in the Ottoman Empire and Turkey(1912-1926), Bogazici University Publications, Istanbul, 1984, pp. 26-41)

Immediately following the First World War, when the Allied armies occupied Istanbul and other key parts of the Ottoman Empire, several hundred prominent Turks were arrested. Then, one night in May 1919 a group of selected prisoners were seized by the British army, embarked on board HMS Princes Ena, and at once deported to Malta. Arrests and deportations continued up to November 1920. About one hundred forty Turks were deported to Malta by the British authorities during the years of 1919 and 1920.

Among the deportees were Ottoman Grand Vizier, Speaker of Parliament, Chief of General Staff, State Ministers, Army Commanders, Sheik-ul-Islam, Deputies, Generals, Colonels, Governors, University Professors, Editors, well-known Journalists, etc. All these prominent members of Turkish society were accused roughly of three categories of alleged offences: (i) failure to comply with Armistice terms, (ii) ill-treatment of British prisoners of war, and (iii) outrages to Armenians in Tukey and Transcaucasia.

The last category of offence, being related to much-talked Armenian deportation and so-called “massacre” during World War I, was particularly interesting. This is a short resume of the Malta episode with an emphasis on Armenian question. The paper is based on British official documents kept in Public Record Office, London. British sources on the subject are very illuminating.

(i)

On January 2nd 1919, Admiral Calthorpe, the British High Commissioner at Istanbul, suggested to London to be authorised “to demand immediate arrest and delivery” to the Biritish military authorities of such Turks against whom there appeared to be a “prima facie good case”. “No action, he said, would be better calculated to impress upon the Turks in interior that they are beaten and the Armenians must be respected.” (1)

A special section of the British High Commission was created under the responsibility of Andrew Ryan to deal with Armenian and Greek “victims of persecution”. Ryan, who had served as Dragoman or interpreter in the British Embassy at Istanbul for fifteen years before the War, was known as anti-Turk intriguer and described as “best hated man in Turkey.”(2) As soon as he arrived again at Istanbul in November 1918, he renewed many old contacts with native Armenians and Greeks, engaged several Armenian informers and induced them to collaborate with Armenian and Greek Section. With their instrumentality and in cooperation with Armenian Patriarchate, a number of “Black Lists” of alleged “Turkish War Criminals” were drawn up. Between January and April 1919 four of these “informal” lists were presented to the Sultan’s Government. Vahdettin was villing to revenge those members of the Committee of Union and Progress (C.U.P.) who were “their political enemies”. Admiral Calthorpe wrote that it was “absolutely necessary to act through Turkish authorities”.(3) Ryan minuted:”Our procedure continued to be that of suggesting names for arrest thus disclaiming all responsibility of guaranteeing the evidence.”(4)

Under the British pressure, between 160 and 200 persons had been arrested in January 1919, by the Government of Tevfik Pasha (5). On January 30, Calthorpe telegraphed to the Governor of Malta, Lord Plumer, asking him if he can make arrangements to receive about 50 or 60 Turkish prisoners at Malta for safe custody out of Turkey.(6)

On February 5, Admiral Calthorpe was instructed by the Foreign Office, to ask the Turkish Government to hand over to him or nearest Allied commander such Turkish officials and officers accused of offences such as: failure to comply with Armistice terms, ill-treatment of British prisoners, outrages to Armenians and other subject races, etc. (7) Upon this, a clash of opinion took place between Admiral Calthorpe and General Franchet d’Esperay, Commander of French forces at Istanbul. French general wrote that it was up to the Turkish authorities to proceed arresting the accused persons, formulating charges against them, and securing their punishment. (8) According to the French Government mere facts of Allies demanding arrests of Turks presumed guilty created “distinction to disadvantage of Muslim-Turks” while Bulgarian, Austrian and German offenders were as yet neither arrested nor molested.(9)

Meanwhile the Tevfik Pasha’s Government took an important decision. On February 1919, it addressed a note to five neutral Governments of Europe, (Spain, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, and Switzerland) informed them that the Turkish Government constituted a Commission for the investigation of alleged abuses committed in connection with Armenian deportation, and invited these neutral Governments to attach each of them two legal superintendents to the Turkish Commission.(9)

The British Foreign Office, rather alarmed upon this unexpected Turkish demarche, decided at once to obstruct it at the very beginning. The Foreign Office addressed a note to the Spanish Ambassador in London who liked to know how the Turkish proposal was regarded by His Britannic Majesty’s Government, and informed him that “The acceptance of the Turkish invitation might, and probably would, run counter to the arrangements eventually made at the Peace Conference, and cause serious complications.”(11). Thus, a neutral investigation of alleged offences against the Armenians during the Great War was discouraged and prevented. The British Government obviously reserved to themselves the right and privilege to investigate such offences and to prosecute the offenders. Tevfik Pasha, initiator of the idea of neutral investigations of the Armenian question, was forced to submit his resignation on March 3rd, 1919, and was subsequently replaced by Ferid Pasha.

The new Grand Vizir was extremely pro-British and is recorded to have said that “hopes of himself and his Master the Sultan were centred after God in British”. He immediately ordered a kind of men-hunting operation in Istanbul in accordance with the wishes of the British High Commission. Nearly all ministers of the war-time Cabinets, including the Grand Vizir Said Halim Pasha, and most of leading members of C.U.P. were summarily arrested in March 1919.

Admiral Richard Webb, Assistant High Commissioner at Istanbul, reported that arrests were progressing “very satisfactorily”, that he was “anxious lest overdirive a willing horse and make him jib at the same time pressing for surrender to the British the arrested persons.” The British High Commission did not, for the time being, demand their surrender and continued instead to obtain more arrests. Furthermore, Admiral Webb continued:”It must be born in mind that degrees of guilt of accused vary greatly and that in regard to massacres question of evidence will be extremely difficult.”(12)

Despite the lack of evidence as to alleged “massacres”, the British High Commission continued to ask for more and more arrests in March and April 1919, though without any serious investigations. Nearly all prisoners were detained in the notorious Seraskeriat or “Bekir Aga” Prison in Istanbul.

On May 15th, the same day when the Greek troops first landed at Izmir, Admiral Webb informed General Milne that in view of the new circumstances, it was “inadvisable” any more that the detainees should remain in Turkish custody and that these persons should be taken over with a view to deport them to Malta. He added that he would not inform the Turkish Government of this step until it has been carried out. (13)

On May 22nd an allied guard composed of British and French soldiers under the British Command was placed at Bekir Aga Prison in order to ensure that the prisoners are not released or liberated.(14) Then in the night of May 28, British Military authorities have taken over from Turkish prison sixty-seven selected detainees, placed them on board HMS Princess Ena, and the ship sailed that night for Malta.(15).

The British High Commissioner reported that the deportees were “very prominent members of the C.U.P.”, so that stringent action to prevent their escape was of the “very utmost importance”. If the accused were to escape, he went on, they would form the nucleus of all the inveterate supporters of the C.U.P.” (16)

On hearing the event from the local press on May 29, the French High Commissioner at Istanbul M. Defrance, expressed his discontent to his British colleague at not having been told the matter earlier. He wrote to Admiral Calthorpe on June 2nd that the deportation of Turkish prisoners have been a surprise to him and he reiterated the French point of view that it was to the Turkish authorities themselves to deal with the accused persons. (17)

on his part French Commander General Franchet d’Esperay wrote a letter of protest, without using the word, to the British Military Mission at Istanbul that he was surprised that the British Commander “did not think fit to keep him informed of an event of such importance”, that “no agreement was made before-hand between the Allied Governments concerning this removal, which was a “political measure” carried out by the British for their own purposes. Furthermore, he said that the use of French troops for such a purpose cannot be countenanced (18). “I am apologizing to Franchet d’Esperay” said General Milne.

On June 4, the French Ambassadors at London communicated to the Foreign Office the regrets of his Government for deportation of Turkish prisoners out of Turkey. French Government was of opinion that it was to the Turkish authorities themselves to prosecute the alleged offenders, that the deportation of the latters could be presented as an act of “arbitrary revenge”(19). Despite French opposition, British authorities in Turkey continued deporting Turkish prisoners throughout the summer of 1919.

The new British High Commissioner at Istanbul, Admiral de Robeck, were soon to revise the position of Turkish prisoners. On September 21st, 1919, he reported to Lord Curzon that the deportees of Malta were “hurriedly” selected from a list of prisoners, that “it was impossible to rely on known facts”, and that “it might be very difficult to sustain definite charges against many of these persons before an allied tribunal”. He suggested therefore that His Majesty’s Government “should form some clear idea as to the best means of disposing of them eventually.” On his part Admiral de Robeck abandoned, for the time being, any idea of recommending further arrests and deportations. (20)

There was now a great deal of hesitation among the British authorities regarding the alleged Turkish offenders. When Admiral de Robeck reported again in November 1919 that he did not consider it politically advisable to deport any more prisoners, W.S. Edmonds at the Foreign Office minuted that: “there seems to be a good deal of doubt between the Foreign Office, Constantinople, Solicitor General and Prisoners Department as to what is being done about offenders in general.”(21)

By January 1920 the British attitude towards Turkey changed again. The last Ottoman Parliament was inaugurated on January 12. Less than a month later, Admiral de Robeck reported that “opening of Parliament was followed by arrival in Istanbul of prominent nationalist leaders and language of open menace to Allies was used at more than one public meeting”(22). Moreover, he wrote that if the Allies desired to impose a drastic peace on Turkey, they would have to impose it by the use of armed forces against Turkish National movement. (23)

On March 6, Lord Curzon informed Admiral de Robeck that the terms of Peace Treaty to be imposed upon Ottoman Government were indeed “sufficiently drastic”, that Allies were contemplating the occupation of Istanbul, and that the occupation “will continue until the Peace Treaty has been accepted and put into execution” by the Turkish Government (24). Furthermore, Lord Curzon stated that the “arrest of dangerous nationalist leaders would be in accord with policy previously pursued.”(25)

In the morning of March 16, 1920, all the official buildings in Istanbul, including the Chamber of Deputies, were formally and forcibly occupied by the troops of the Entente Powers, and a number of prominent Turkish nationalist leaders and deputies were arrested. On March 18, Admiral de Robeck telegraphed to Lord Plumer, the Governor of Malta, the following:”I am embarking in HMS BenBow on March 18th about 30 important Turkish political prisoners whose arrest has been effected pursuant to instructions of His Majesty’s Government. I would be grateful if you would be so good as to give orders for their reception and safe custody at Malta. “Benbow” due Malta March 21st” (26). New deportations were to continue from March to November 1920. Overall 144 Turkish prisoners were deported to Malta in the years of 1919 and 1920.

Following the deportation of his close collaborators as “politically undesirables”, Mustafa Kemal Pasha, the Leader of the Turkish National Movement, ordered, as a reprisal, the arrest of soem 20 British officers in Anatolia, including Colonel Rawlinson, who was the younger brother of Lord Rawlinson and a relative of Lord Curzon.

In August 1920 the Peace Treaty of Sevres was imposed upon Ottoman Government. The Treaty which was described by Mustafa Kemal Pasha as “a death sentence for the Turkish nation” and never ratified, contained some penalty clauses. By the terms of article 230 the Ottoman Government undertook to hand over to the Allied Powers those persons accused of “massacres”, and to recognise the competence of Allied tribunals to try alleged Turkish offenders. Furthermore, the Sultan’s Government undertook to furnish to the Allies “all documents and information of every kind” which would be considered necessary to ensure the full knowledge of the incriminating acts.

With the signature of the Treaty of Sevres, nearly everything was completed for prosecution of the Turkish deportees accused of “Armenian massacres”. The alleged offenders in question were already in British custody. The British forces were in occupation of Turkish capital and some other points in Turkey. Therefore, all Turkish Central State Archives and some of those kept in the provinces were at the disposal of the British authorities. Furthermore, the Ottoman Government undertook to assist the Allied authorities in prosecution of alleged offenders.

It seemed that the British Government doubted whether these Turkish deportees at Malta, whose arrests and deportations were caused by some zealots, were in fact guilty or not. The responsible British authorities were hesitating to accuse formally these deportees. On the contrary, they were contemplating their release. On July 19th, 1920, W.S. Churchill, the Secretary of State of War, circulated to the British Cabinet the list of Turkish deportees at Malta and suggested that it should be carefully revised by the Attorney General. Churchill added:”those men against whom it is not proposed to take definite proceedings should at the first convenient opportunity be released.” (27)

The Law Officers of the Crown were consulted and presented to the Cabinet a memorandum dated August 4. It was understood that the Law Officers were dealing only with few Turkish deportees accused of ill-treatment of British prisoners of War. No material or evidence existed about alleged Armenian persecution. Therefore, the Law Officers abstained to formulate against the deportees such a crime. (28)

At their meeting held on August 4, 1920, the British Cabinet had under consideration both this memorandum and that of circulated by Churchill, and agreed that the list of Turkish deportees should be carefully revised by the Attorney General and that those deportees against whom no proceedings were contemplated should be released at the first convenient opportunity. (29)

On February 8th, 1921, the Attorney General informed the Foreign Office that he was concerned only with eight Turkish deportees accused of ill-treatment of British prisoners of war and not with others. He suggested that His Majesty’s High Commissioner at Istanbul should be asked to prepare the evidence against those interned Turks whom he (High Commissioner) recommended for persecution (30). Meanwhile, Lord Plumer, the Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Malta, submitted to the Colonial Office a detailed report on Turkish detainees. He suggested that some of them should be released and the charges on which the others were to be tried be communicated to them together with a summary of evidence (31). Thus, the crucial question of evidence to produced against the deportees was now raised both by the Governor of Malta and the Attorney General. But no such an evidence ever existed in the files of British Department in London, and Lord Curzon was expecting a full report and all incriminating documents from the British High Commissioner at Istanbul.

In the meantime, Curzon informed Sir H. Rumbold that an agreement with Turkey for the exchange of prisoners was contemplated and asked his opinion about a number of Turkish detainees at Malta (32). Rumbold replied: “Broadly speaking my view is that all persons against whom there are no charges justifying eventual prosecution might now be released provided that we can secure in exchange release of all British prisoners in the hands of Kemalists.” The High Commissioner further suggested prosecution of some of deportees and selected the remainder for an exchange (33).

An agreement for the “Immediate Release of Prisoners” was signed between Bekir Sami Bey, Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Robert Vansitart, a member of British Foreign Office. on March 16, 1921, in London. It stipulated the release of all 22 British prisoners in Turkey and repatriation of 64 Turkish deportees at Malta (34).

The British Government, thus, accepted the release of one half of the Turkish deportees, but continued keeping the other half for trial. Such an agreement was unacceptable to the Turkish Government. In fact, the instructions of Bekir Sami Bey precluded him from accepting any arrangement but one based on “all for all” exchange, and he was forced to resign from his post for having neglected the instructions.

Out of originally 144 deportees at Malta 56 persons were selected by H.M. High Commissioner at Istanbul for prosecution. On March 16, 1921, Sir H. Rumbold forwarded to the Foreign Office long expected “evidence” or “details of charges” against each of these persons (35). These documents consisted a few typewritten pages for each one of 56 deportees. The first pages of each “dossier” were reserved to the biographical information of the accused person and the last pages or paragraphs to the “accusation” itself. Andrew Ryan, explained how these “accusations” were drawn up:

“In practice we have gone on the principle that a sufficient presumption of guilt to justify detention and ultimate prosecution existed against all members of the responsible Governments of Turkey at the time when the massacres and deportations took place and all persons so high in the councils of C.U.P. as to be credited with share in directing its policy. If this is the principle, then it seems to me that all these people should stand their trial…This appears to me the only logical course.”(36)

This means that most of the deportees considered a priori guilty. Such a logic and such a principle, were obviously quite the contrary of the well-established basic principle of law and justice, according to which each person is considered innocent until he is actually found guilty.

Sir H. Rumbold in forwarding to London the “evidence” against the deportees, wrote that very few witnesses were available, that Armenian Patriarchate at Istanbul had been the principal channel through which information had been obtained, and that none of allied, associated and neutral Governments had been asked to supply evidence. He admitted that “under these circumstances the Prosecution will find itself under grave disadvantage”, but he hoped that American Government could supply “a large amount of documentary information.”(37)

Sir Harry Lamb, one of Rumbold’s collaborators, wrote frankly the following:

“No one of the deportees {at Malta} was arrested on any evidence in legal sense… The wholse case of these deportees is not satisfactory…. There are no dossiers in any legal sense. In many cases we have statements by Armenians of differing values, in some cases, we have nothing but what is common report and an extract from a printed pamphlet. It is safe to say that very few ‘dossiers’ as they now stand would be marked ‘no case’ by a practical lawyer…”(38)

For the officials of the British Foreign Office such a result was obviously disappointing. They still maintained their efforts in order to secure prosecution of some of the deportees and for that purpose addressed for assisstance to the United States of America and to the British Attorney General. On April 1st, 1921, all available “evidence were transmitted to the Department of Law Officers for the information of the Attorney General.

In reply, the Law Officers stated again that they were concerned only with the eight detainees accused of cruelty to the British prisoners of war. As to the others, the Attorney General was of the opinion that, their detention or release involved “a question of high policy” and was not dependent on legal proceedings (39). Thus, the Attorney General refused to involve himself with the alleged case of Armenian “massacres” and he carefully refrained from pronouncing the word “massacre”, so freely used by the allied war-time propaganda machine and by some politicians.

The top officials of the Foreign Office recorded their views on the Law Officers’ Commentary as follows:

“The Attorney General is only concerned with eight Turks whose prosecution he desires for cruelty to British prisoners of war. The Foreign Office, however, is concerned with 45 Turks (of whom two have escaped from Malta) who ought to be prosecuted for massacre under the article 230 of Treaty of Sevres. The letter give no guidance as to those 45. Our difficulty is that we have practically no legal evidence and we do not want to prepare for proceeding which will be abortive…We asked Washington if the Americans could produce any evidence of massacre against the internees.

1. Remind Washington,

2. Reply that we wish to retain for prosecution all the internees against whom there is a reasonable prospect of obtaining a conviction…(40)

{Another member of the Foreign Office added}

“I think we should explain this, adding (if this is, as I presume it is, our view) that from the political point of view it is very desirable that these people should be brought to trial… and we should be very grateful if the Attorney General would let us have his views on this point”(41)

On the other hand, Lord Curzon informed Sir A. Geddes, the British Ambassador at Washington, that there was a “considerable difficulty” in establishing proof of guilty against the Turkish detainees at Malta and requested him “to ascertain if United States Government are in possession of any evidence that would be of value for purpose of prosecution (42). A list of names and brief particulars of 45 Turkish deportees who were detained at Malta for prosecution was forwarded to Washington in order to ascertain whether Americans can furnish any evidence against these persons (43).

On July 13, 1921, the British Embassy in Washington returned the following reply:

“I have the honour to inform Your Lordship that a member of my staff visited the State Department yesterday, the 12th instant, in regard to the Turks who are at present being detained at Malta with a view to a trial… He was permitted to see a selection of reports from United States Consuls on the subject of the atrocities committed in Armenia during the recent war, the reports judged by the State Department to be the most useful for the purposes of His Majesty’s Government being chosen from among several hundreds. I regret to inform Your Lordship that there was nothing therein which could be used as evidence against the Turks who are being detained for trial at Malta. The reports seems.. made mention of only two names of the Turkish officials in question… and in these cases were confined to personal opinions of those officials on the part of the writer, no concrete facts being given which could constitute satisfactory incriminating evidence. I have the honour to add that officials of the Department of State expressed the wish, in the course of conversation, that no information supplied by them in this connection should be employed in the court of law. Having regard to this stipulation and the fact that the reports in the possession of the Department of State do not appear in any case to contain evidence against these Turks which would be useful even for the purpose of corraborating information already in possession of His Majesty’s Government, I fear that nothing is to be hoped from addressing any further enquiries to the United States Government in this matter.” (44)

The Foreign Office was once more disappointed and one of them, W.S. Edmonds minuted: “It never seemed very likely that we should be able to obtain evidence from Washington. We are now waiting for the Attorney General’s opinion as to whether there is reasonable prospect of convicting any of the prisoners charged with massacres, etc.”(45) The Foreign Office was still persisting for prosecution of innocent Turkish detainees. In view of lack of legal evidence, they decided to use political argument and wrote accordingly to H.M. Procurator General’s Department:

“From Political point of view, the letter said, it is highly desirable that proceedings should take place against all of these persons against whom there is a reasonable prospect of obtaining a conviction. On the other hand, it is equally desirable to avoid initiating any proceedings which might be expected to prove abortive. In these circumstances His Lordship (Curzon) would be so good as to favour him with an opinion as to which of the forty-five Turks mentioned above could be prosecuted, when the occasion presents itself, with a reasonable prospect of success.”(46).

In its report dated July 29, 1921, H.M. Procurator General’s Department pointed out that the charges made against the Turkish detainees named in the Foreign Office list were of “a quasi-political character” and that there existed great difficulty of securing proofs in these cases. To the Attorney General, “it seems improbable that the charges made against some of the accused will be capable of legal proof in a Court of Law”. Therefore, the Attorney General was “not in a position to express any opinion” as to the prospect of success in any cases submitted for his consideration.(47)

This was the conclusive opinion of H.M. Attorney General. There was no evidence against the Turkish deportees and therefore no prospect of success of prosecuting them before a Court of Law. All political attempts of the Foreign Office to secure the conviction of innocent detainees thus failed in presence of dignified English Jurists. Upon the receipt of the letter of the Procurator General’s Department, an official of the Foreign Office wrote:

“From this letter it appears that the chances of obtaining convictions are almost nil…

The American Government, we ascertained, cannot help with any evidence…

In addition to the absence of legal evidence there is the extreme unlikelihood that the French and Italians would agree to participate in constituting the course provided for in article 230 of the Treaty {of Sevres}.

On the other hand we certainly cannot release any Turks until our own prisoners are returned…”(48)

It was impossible to detain any longer the Turkish prisoners in malta as actual offenders. From now on, the British authorities were keeping them as “hostages” against British prisoners in Anatolia. Before a final decision regarding these hostages, the High Commissioner at Istanbul was asked if he had any observation. Sir H. Rumbold was informed that “His Majesty’s Government must contemplate…the release of the 43 Turks who remain at Malta” and he was requested to furnish his views upon this subject (49).

In Istanbul Sir H. Rumbold asked the opinion of the English Judge Sir Lindsay-Smith and that of General Harrington’s legal adviser. Sir Lindsay-Smith stated that he accepted the Attorney-General’s opinion as conclusive and that “an abortive trial would do more harm than good”. In conclusion, he said that the only alternative was “to retain Turkish deportees at Malta as hostages”(50). General Sir Charles Harrington added that there was no longer any good purpose served by maintaining these persons at Malta at public expense, and that the whole of them might be used to obtain the release of British prisoners (51).

In this context, Sir Horace Rumbold wrote to Lord Curzon that “Failing the possibility of obtaining proper evidence against these Turks which would satisfy a British Court of Law, we would seem to be continuing an act of technical injustice in further detaining the Turks in question. In order, therefore, to avoid as far as possible losing face, in this matter, I consider that all the Turks except the eight…. should be made available for exchange purposes.”(52)

Eight detainees were those charged with cruelty to British prisoners. Both the Foreign Office and War Office were now in favour of an exchange all Turkish detainees, other than the eight, against the British prisoners in Turkey and the Law Officers of the Crown concurred in this view (53). Then, Lord Curzon informed Sir H. Rumbold on September 27, that the British Government was ready to repatriate all Turkish deportees at Malta, including the eight, in exchange of all British prisoners in Turkey (54).

On October 1st, 1921, all Turkish deportees at Malta, to the number of 59, were embarked on board HMS Crysanthemum and FRA Montenol, and the ships sailed for Turkey. The Governor of Malta reportedthat everything possible was done to ensure “the reasonable comfort” of the deportees on board. When they were released, the deportees refused to sign clearence certificates and stated that they intended to make indemnity claims against the British authorities in respect of their internment at Malta (56). Chrysanthemum and Montenol arrived at Inebolu, on the south coast of the Black Sea, on October 31st, 1921, and all deportees of Malta landed safely on Turkish soil. At the same time, all British prisoners in Anatolia were handed over to their authorities (57). The episode of Malta thus ended.

(ii)

To sum up, these prominent Turks, accused of Armenian persecution, were arrested and deported without any serious investigation. The principal sources of information of the British High Commission at Istanbul were some local Armenians and the Armenian Patriarchate itself. There was, from the very beginning, a great deal of doubt whether the accused persons were in fact guilty or not. Admiral Webb wrote in March 1919 that “in regard to massacres, question of evidence will be extremely difficult”. French authorities were against these arrests and deportations which they considered as “political measures”. Admiral de Robeck wrote in September 1919 that “it was impossible to rely on known facts” and that “it might be very difficult to sustain definite charges against these persons before an allied tribunal”. Indeed “no one of the deportees was arrested on any evidence” and “there was no dossier in legal sense.”

From the political point of view, it was “highly desirable” for the British Government that at least some of these deportees should be brought to trial. The British Foreign Office has left no stone unturned in order to prove that an Armenian “massacre” actually took place in Turkey and consequently some of these detainees were guilty. But all efforts of the Foreign Office in this connection ended with a complete failure. There was no evidence, no witness, no dossier, and no proof. The Armenian Patriarchate furnished nothing incriminatory. The Turkish capital was under Allied occupation and all Ottoman State archives were easily accessible to the British authorities in Istanbul. Yet, the British High Commissioner was unable to forward to London any evidence in the legal sense. There was nothing in the British archives which could be used as evidence against the Turkish detainees at Malta. The State Department was also unable to assist the British Government with evidence against these Turks.

It appears that what actually took place in Turkey during World War I was not a “massacre” but a deportation. The Armenian minority in eastern Turkey revolted against the Ottoman State at a most critical time in recent Turkish history when Russian armies launched an offensive against Van, in the East, and when the Allied troops landed on Gallipoli peninsula, in the West, in April 1915. The Ottoman Government then decided in May 1915 to remove the insurgent Armenian minority from the war zone to the Syrian province of the Empire. Some 700,000 Armenians out of a total 1,200,000 were transported from Anatolia to Syria in very difficult conditions, i.e. at a time when the Empire was suffering from severe shortage of vehicles, food, fuel, clothing, and other supplies as well as large-scale plague and famine. Turks as well as Armenians suffered much from the ravages of foreign invasions, activities of robber bands, as well as general insecurity and blood feuds. Under these conditions, too many lives were unfortunately lost, but Armenian casualties were no greater in percentage than that of the Turks.

These facts were firstly interpreted and distorded by Armenian nationalists and propagandists. Then the British and French Intelligence Services on their part spread throughout the world the stories of imaginary “massacres” for the sake of their own political purposes. Since the Ottoman Government did not hesitate to declare a Cihad or Sacred War against them, the Allied Governments obviously excused themselves for having so much propagandized these stories and sufferings of Christian brethren under the Muslim-Turkish “yoke”. This propaganda was still exploited at conference tables by some British politicians. But to make propaganda and to prosecute innocent people before a serious Court of Law were indeed quite different things. Sir Gordon Howard, the British Attorney-General, was not probably unaware that, in fact, no massacre was planned or ordered by the Ottoman officials and no planned massacre was carried out. He thought that all charges made against the Turkish officials and officers at Malta were of “quasi-political character” and consequently it was improbable that these charges will be capable of legal proof in a Court of Law. As a result, all detainees at Malta were released and repatriated without being brought before a Tribunal.

(1) Public Record Office (hereafter PRO), Foreign Office (hereafter FO) 371/4172/2391
(2) Sir Andrew Ryan, The Last of the Dragomans, (London 1951), preface
(3) FO 371/4172/1437
(4) FO 371/4174/11837
(5) FO 371/4172/13694
(6) FO 371/4172/16731
(7) FO 371/4172 FO to Calthorpe, tel.no. 233 of 5.2.1919
(8) FO 371/4172/2408
(9) FO 371/4172/28138
(10) FO 371/4172/29498
(11) FO 371/. Greham to Spanish Ambassador, 4.3.1919
(12) FO 371/4172/41634 Webb to FO, tel.no. 532 of 11.3.1919
(13) FO 371/4174 Webb to G.O.C. No. R.1315 of 15.5.1919
(14) FO 271/41741 Webb to Milne 22.5.1919. Duncan to Webb, 1302, 22.5.1919
(15) FO 371/4173/81368 Calthorpe to FO tel.No. 1150 of 29.5.1919
(16) FO 371/4174/88761
(17) FO 371/4174 Defrance to Calthorpe, 2.6.1919
(18) FO 371/4174 British Military Mission to G.O.C. 30.5.1919
(19) FO 371/4173/84188
(2) FO 371/4174/136069
(21) FO 371/4174/156721
(22) Bilal N. Simsir (ed.by) British Documents on Ataturk (1919-1938), Vol.I, Ankara, pp. 367-368
(23) Ibid., pp 372’375
(24) Ibid., p.441
(25) Ibid., p 443
(26) FO 371/5089/Plummer to S. of S. for the Colonies, tel no. 66, 18.3.1920
(27) FO 371/5090 and C.P. 1649. Memorandum by the S. of S. For War, 19.7.1920
(28) FO 371/5090/E. 9934 (C.P.1770)
(29) FO 371/5090/E.9934 and C.P. 1770
(30) FO 371/64990/E. 1801
(31) FO 371/6499/E. 2653
(32) FO. 371/6499/E. 3215
(33) FO 371/6499/E. 3277
(34) Text in FO 371/6500/E. 3375
(35) FO 371/6500/E. 3557
(36) FO 371/6500/E.3557
(37) FO 371/6500/E.3557
(38)FO 371/6500/E. 3554 Minutes by Lamb to the file of Veli Nejdet
(39) FO 371/6502/E. 5845
(40) FO 371/6502/E. 5845
(41) Ibid.
(42) FO 371/6502/E. 5845
(43) FO 371/6503/E. 6311
(44) FO 371/6504/E. 8519. R.C. Cragie (British Embassy in Washington) to Lord Curzon, No. 722 of July 13, 1921
(45) FO 371/6504/E. 8519 FO minutes
(46) FO 371/6502/E. 5845. Oliphant to Woods (Procurator General’s Dept), E. 5845/132/44 of May 31, 1921
(47) FO 371/6504/E. 8745 Woods (Procurator General’s Dept) to FO, 29.7.1921
(48) Ibid.
(49) FO 371/6504/E. 8745 FO to Rumbold, No.851, 10.8.1921
(50) FO 371/6504/E. 10023
(51) Ibid.
(52) Ibid.
(53) FO 371/6504/E. 10561
(54) FO 371/6504/E. 10662
(55) FO 371/6505/E. 11011 and E. 1112
(56) FO 371/6505. Plumer to War Office, No. 4133 (A), 29.10.1921
(57) FO 371/6505/E. 12068 and E. 12891

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