De Armeense genocide

 /  Erkenning  /  Historische erkenning  /  Vonnis van het Turks militair tribunaal

Vonnis van het Turks militair tribunaal

[5 juli 1919]

“Prime Minister Talaat Pasha and Minister of War Enver Effendi, now expelled from his military career; Djemal Effendi, Minister of the Navy, likewise expelled from the service; Dr. Nazim, Minister of Education-these were the principal criminals [fayili asli] and their guilt has been determined by a unanimous vote.”

“In accordance therefore with the abovementioned paragraphs in the law code, Talaat, Enver, Djemal and Dr. Nazim are sentenced to death.”

Hieronder volgt een Engelse vertaling van het vonnis dat door het Turks militair tribunaal in juli 1919 is geveld over onder anderen Talaat Pasja, Enver Pasja en Djemal Pasja, het dictatoriale driemanschap dat het Ottomaanse Rijk tijdens de Eerste Wereldoorlog had geleid. De Ottomaans-Turkse regering had dit tribunaal onder druk van de geallieerden ingesteld om de schuldigen van diverse oorlogsmisdaden, waaronder de Armeense genocide, te berechten. Omdat Talaat, Enver en Djemal aan het einde van de oorlog per duikboot zijn gevlucht, zijn ze bij verstek veroordeeld en is hun vonnis, de doodstraf, nooit uitgevoerd.


During the course of this trial, having heard the petitions and statements of both sides; having studied and examined in detail documents relating to this case; and after holding many consultations in the interest of the proper disposition of the matters under dispute, the following verdict is handed down:

Although the accused and their attorneys entered a motion that the accused be set free, in accordance with the decrees [Idianname] of the Attorney General dated May 3, 20 and 22, June 9, 16 and 25, all 1919, [saying] that the accused were in fact moral representatives of the now defunct Ittihad and Terakki Party, which had committed countless crimes, as were the members of the Ittihad General Council [Medjlisi Oumumi], who were the authors of the abovementioned crimes [jerayim fayilleri], [it was ruled] that all the accused were then competent to stand trial and face punitive judgment.

It was first deemed necessary to study the acts and deeds of the abovementioned Party [Djemiet] since its establishment. Before the Turkish Revolution [of 1908], there were individuals and organizations, which remain secret today, which expressed patriotic sentiments and aims. The record compiled since the Revolution by these people, parties and movements may be summarized as follows:

[Certain] Ottoman subjects who thirsted for justice and freedom withdrew on July 9, 1324 [1908] to the mountains of Resneh to fight for freedom.

To all Ottomans who thirsted for justice and freedom, July 9, 1324 [1908], the withdrawal to Resneh represented the bursting forth of a torrent of pure water bursting on them from heaven. The conviction was born that this was the only remedy for the oppression and injustices which we suffered; and the people in nowise obstructed the spread of the movement, supporting the revolutionaries with sincerity and loyalty until normal conditions were restored in all the provinces of the vast Ottoman Empire, which rang with the hope that justice and freedom would in fact be established. These sweet cries often reached the ears of the revolutionaries and their movement became stronger.

But with the passing of time, as a result of political errors, many portions of Ottoman territories were lost, one after the other, to the Empire. Efforts were made to rectify these failures by pointing up the errors of the old regime. The errors followed on one another. Even the [dreadful] consequences of the Italian and Balkan wars did not lead to the initiation of programs of administrative reform. Those who had hoped were disillusioned; those who thirsted for freedom were seized with anguish and concern; and a segment of those who were thought to be working for the national weal surrendered themselves to their own personal aspirations, and they followed an entirely wrong path; and some of those who had cried out “We are thirsty for freedom” committed such strange acts that they laid the country open to ruin – they dried up the land and subjected it to a painful situation. They practiced selfishness and thoughtlessly misled the government, outwardly pretending to be abiding by the law, but actually, through deception, creating a system of bodied in the Provinces which took over their local provincial administration and finally subordinated the Ministers' Council. They accomplished this by taking over their general assemblies. Thus did they achieve their goals.

It is apparent from the statements of Minister of Finance Djavid Bey, and the written records of the Fifth Committee of Parliament, especially those of October 24-26, 1334 [1918] that the Executive of the Ittihad and Terakki Party had taken decisive and audacious steps involving the fate of the nation and the country, that it declared war on its own without even consulting the Council of Ministers and obtaining that body's consent, something which it found to be unnecessary – although even the kings cannot arbitrarily declare war.

No good could come out of such behaviour. Everyone understood this.

The opponents of the Ittihad Party who, however, had practiced a certain degree of respect toward that Party, now began openly to criticize it.

After the revolution it had been deemed necessary to declare martial law, which the Party did – but without cessation, indefinitely. They enlisted the mob, the rabble, collectively to assail the Sublime Porte. They assassinated Nazim, the Minister of War, and his chief Aide, and they proceeded to overthrow the Cabinet of Kiamil Pasha, establishing a Cabinet of the Ittihad and Terakki. They summarily dismissed the experienced and honorable members of the Cabinet and replaced them with persons who belonged to the Party. There arrived a moment when people sought again the days of the tyrant. Everyone began to protest the rampant arbitrariness and tyranny.

There was even more to it. They created an even greater atmosphere of harassment of the non-Islamic elements of the land, the Armenians in particular, who had hoped, from our precious Constitution, for justice and peace. These people now understood that they had been victimised by hypocrisy, and they assumed the posture of awaiting that opportune moment when they would be able to realize their former national aspirations. And the cause of all this were the Ittihadists themselves. They even raised national and racial issues among the Moslems of the land, they promoted divisiveness and conflict and jeopardized Ottoman unity. All this has been established by the intensive studies and examinations done of the matter as they appear in the charge of the Attorney General.

The Court Martial has confirmed the following five points which are irrefutable, which substantiate the Attorney General's demand that a verdict of guilty be arrived at.

These facts relate to the active body of the Ittihad and Terakki, the Party's moral representative. The personal crimes attributed to this representation have tainted the name of the Party. Of these crimes, all of us [i.e., members of the Court] have in all good conscience formed our own convictions.

Consequently, the adjudged abovementioned crimes cannot be ascribed to all members [i.e., the accused]. Special legal disposition must be made to judge the degree of guilt or innocence of all participants in these crimes in accordance with the degree of their guilt.

Counsel for the accused in the course of his defense declared that under the constitutional regime the presence of political parties has been deemed to be necessary, that even today in our land other political parties in fact exist, in particular the “Hurriet and Ittilaf” party, which has a Central headquarters, a General Assembly and branches, just as the Ittihad and Terakki party; and [defense counsel said], the “Hurriet and Ittilaf” has even called those of its members who are Ministers to a meeting of their own.

It is the contention of this court, after many consultations, that although the presence of parties and coalitions is necessary in countries governed by a Constitution, these parties and movements must never interfere in the affairs of the Government and its Executive Branch. After defining their aims and goals through majority actions taken at their national conventions, they leave the Ministers who enjoy their confidence alone to express their own views and cast their votes in accordance with the dictates of their own conscience.

Parties and movements then aspire simply to influence Governmental actions to be in accordance with their own plans. They work solely to that end. They do not meddle on other business and they try to influence those Ministers whose actions they do not approve to resign, not by threats but by votes of “no confidence.” This is the natural way of doing things.

As to the parties which exist in Turkey, up to the convening of the National Assembly, the majority party cannot exert any influence on, or intervene in, the operations of the Executive of the Government which it has not chosen; on the other hand, if such a Party tries to alter the Government's legal and constitutional form, the end result will be just as bad. Thus, in examining the diverse offices of this Government, one must conclude that the views of defense counsel have no validity.

The five points projected by the Court are then the following:

(1) On the evidence of the trial which has taken place before this Military Court, it is obvious that the massacres which took place in the Kaza of Boghazlayan [Ankara], the Sanjak of Yozgat, and the Vilayet of Trebizond, were organized and perpetrated by the leaders of the Ittihad and Terakki Party.

(2) The Defense argued that the news of these was communicated [to the Party] only after they had been committed. But even if this hypothesis were true, it is plain that even after the news was received of the atrocities, no steps were taken to prevent their repetition; nor were arrangements made for the punishment of the original criminals.

We note that the President of the Ittihad [Sadrazam], Prime Minister Said Halim Pasha, upon the proclamation of general mobilization, invited to his seacoast residence the members of the Central Committee of the Ittihad [Merkezi Oumoumi], advising them that it would be extremely perilous for Turkey to take part in the war, that they adopt a policy of neutrality. He backed up his views with explanations and factual data, but failed to convince them. So, they took part in the war; and based on the minutes of the Parliament, as confirmed by Riza Bey, it is obvious that the responsible representatives of the Ittihad and Terakki had, even before the declaration of war, organized bandit bands in Trebizond which entered Russian territory and committed acts of aggression. Riza Bey confessed this to be a fact. The war itself was not declared with the full assent of the Council of Ministers; and it was after the step to war had been taken that Minister of Finance, Djavid Bey, Churouk Sulu Mahmoud of Postal Services, and Suleyman el Boustani Effendi, Minister of Commerce, resigned their posts. This confirms further the fact that war was not declared on the DECISION OF THE COUNCIL OF MINISTERS, that such a step was decided upon by the Ittihad and Terakki Party, that that Party alone declared war.

(3) From the testimony of former Prime Minister Ahmed Izzet Pasha it is clear that his resignation as Minister of War was brought about by the intervention of the Ittihad Party – was the direct result of that Party's hostility to him.

(4) The world congress of the Ittihad and Terakki Party, having come to an understanding on the subject of the logistical support of the army, the Party's Istanbul headquarters handed over the direction of that task to its representative, Kemal Bey. First, they created a businessmen's body which took over the operations and rights of a number of firms and factions and seized private property. Public institutions were forced to transfer their assets to a limited number of individuals, including members of bodies mentioned above. As a result, countless numbers of Ottoman subjects have perished from lack of nourishment; many have suffered paralysis, and many have died. The result was that to a considerable degree the government's potential defense force was diminished. That the Ittihad and Terakki Center interfered in Governmental operations was confirmed by the records of the Ittihad Congress of 1332 [1916] which show that a report to this effect delivered there was warmly received.

This Court demanded and received from the Municipality [of Istanbul] an explanation of this event.

(5) Musa Kiazim Effendi, the Sheikh-ul-Islam, while consulting with the Senate on the matter of transfer of the religious court [Sheriye] to the Ministry of Justice, in replying to a question put to him, said: “Do not ask for my vote. The Party [Firka] wants it that way and that way it shall be.” These circumstances were fully explained and understood during this trial.

They simply mean that the Ittihad in fact interfered [in the operations of the Government].

These five points were familiar to all of them; as were other matters, the consequences of which we have all seen. With reference to important matters of State, no opportunity was given the Council of Ministers to determine issues by their own vote and on their own counsel. There were instances of intervention to render the Government subservient to their own interests and their purposes. All this have been proved.

The legal form of the Ottoman Government called for authority to be divided into three agencies: Legislative, Executive, and Judicial. The Ittihad rendered itself superior to the three branches of Government, brought itself to the fore as a fourth power, prevailed through the force of threat, and disfigured our form of Government.

The authors of the above-mentioned crimes, representing the moral person of the Ittihad and Terakki Party, are the members of its General Assembly, the fugitives – Prime Minister Talaat Pasha and Minister of War Enver Effendi, now expelled from his military career; Djemal Effendi, Minister of the Navy, likewise expelled from the service; Dr. Nazim, Minister of Education – these were the principal criminals [fayili asli] and their guilt has been determined by a unanimous vote. As for the case of another member of the Ittihad General Assembly, the Seikh-ul-Islam, Musa Kiazim Effendi, who was present throughout the trial, and on whose behalf both defense counsel and the Attorney General pleaded as if he were a man of virtue, a person of character and great learning, a man whom they could not possibly envision as having participated in the crimes: Musa Kiazim Effendi, however, has been one of the important members of the Party since the Revolution but has obviously convinced such people of high education as defense counsel and the Attorney General of his innocence.

The truth is that he is a person of inadequate education, who represented to ignorant people the deeds of the Party as logical and legal. He exerted no effort [to discourage the crimes committed] and even obstructed attempts to rectify erroneous opinions. In this trial it came to light that he directed the scientific and religious affairs of the Ittihad and Terakki Party, acting contrary to the Sheri Sherif [the law of the noble religion of Islam], and gave advice contrary [to the spirit of Islam]. He has told this Court that the advice which he rendered was not proper and admitted that he made no attempt to forestall [the events]; he also said that to resign from the Ittihad and Terraki is to resign from Islam – and these and similar concepts are in ill-keeping with the virtues and perfection ascribed to him. They simply exacerbate his guilt. During the examination and interrogation of this individual it was made clear that, being very busy with his work in the scientific branch of his Party, although not included among the principal authors of the crimes, he nevertheless became a participant and for this his guilt has been confirmed by a unanimous vote and his case has been decided on a two-thirds majority vote.

It has not been confirmed that Rifaat Bey, the former President of the Senate, participated in the Ittihad and Terakki Party; neither was he a participant in the crimes committed. The court decided unanimously to grant him freedom provided that he is not jailed for another cause.

Former Minister of the Postal Service, Hashim Bey, was in Berlin. Without receiving his consent, he was elected a Minister and, despite his refusal, he was appointed a Minister upon his return to Istanbul. His period as Minister coincided with the last years of the Ittihad Ministerial Council and he attended only three general meetings of the Ittihad in which he busied himself with issues outside of the Constitution. He was never personally present at any of their consultations, he was a mere listener. This was confirmed in the ensuing examinations. He too therefore has been set free by a majority vote provided that he will not [have] been arrested for any other cause.

As to the sentences: punishment is to be meted to the abovementioned persons: Talaat, Enver, Djemal and Dr. Nazim, whose crimes were the greatest according to the first paragraph of the 45th Article of the Imperial Municipal Punitive Lawbook; also to be punished are Djavid, Mustafa Sheref and Musa Kiazim, by virtue of the second paragraph of the same Article and in accordance with the last paragraph of the 55th Article of the same Lawbook. The Articles in question are:

When a number of persons commit together a crime, or commit a crime which itself comprehends a number of criminal acts, when each of these persons has been responsible for the commission of one or a few facets of that crime, such people will be termed as co-participants and will be punished individually as principal criminals.

When it is a question of altering the form of the constitutional government or plotting against the Sultanate, or committing a violent murder – when such acts are confirmed, the accused shall be sentenced to death.

Accomplices in a felonious crime who are not subject to a legal exception shall be punished in the following manner: If the principal has been sentenced to death or to permanent forced labor, accomplices shall be sentenced to a term of hard labor of not less than ten years.

In accordance therefore with the abovementioned paragraphs in the law code, Talaat, Enver, Djemal and Dr. Nazim are sentenced to death and Djavid, Mustafa Sheref and Musa Kiazim are sentenced to fifteen years at hard labor; and

Although the abovementioned Rifaat and Hashim Beys are to be set free, this will pose no obstacle to issuance of Supreme Court summons to them to appear before that Court on matters relating to their offices; and

Former Minister of Postal Services, Vosgan Effendi, and Minister of Commerce Suleyman-el Boustani Effendi, having departed for Europe quite a while ago, and it having been confirmed that even now they are unaware of invitations issued them [by this Court] to appear before it, and it being known that even if they were aware of this Court's invitation their return would have been improbable, their cases are therefore tabled.

These verdicts have been rendered unanimouslyin absentiain the cases of Talaat, Enver, Djemal and Dr. Nazim; Djavid, Mustafa Sheref, Vosgan and Suleyman-el Boustani Effendis; they have been likewise rendered in the presence of Rifaat, Hashim Beys, and Musa Kiazim.

July 5, 1919 [1335], 6 Shevval 1337: signatures: The President of the Military Court, Ferik [General] of Staff; Mustafa Nazim Binni Ahmed; Member of the Military Court; Mirliva [General] of Staff, Ali Nazim; Member of the Military Court, Colonel of Infantry, Rejeb Ferdi Binni Mehmed Ali.


Having considered the confessions of Mustafa Kiazim Effendi and the circumstances revealed by his statements, the undersigned is in full agreement [with the Court sentence] that he was not an accomplish to the crimes of the Merkezi Oumoumiya; but [it is the view of the undersigned] that he used his religious and scientific responsibilities in such a way as to hide the crimes of the Central body, that he made no effort to prevent or forestall the commission of those crimes, that he did not resign from office [because of those crimes], and that therefore he was one of the principal criminals. Hashim Bey, too, according to the evidence of his own confessions, adhered with all his heart to the Central Body and has been loyal to it both during his tenure of office and before he assumed the responsibilities of his position. He posed not a single objection to the crimes committed up to the day of his trial, and is convinced of the Central Body's innocence [of those crimes]. The undersigned is inclined to consider him an accomplice-criminal. – [Signed] Member of the Military Court and Mirliva [General of Staff] Mustafa Binni Aziz, Suleymaniye.

It is confirmed that the signatures affixed to this sentence are the authentic signatures of the Members of the Military Court:

July 5, 1919 [1335]

Military Court: NAZIM.

Head of the Secretariat empowered to Record the Minutes of this Military Tribunal: Abidin Daver.

Official organ: No. 3604.

De oorspronkelijke tekst is gepubliceerd op 22 juli 1919 in de Takvim-i-Vekayi, de officiële krant van het Ottomaanse parlement. Het vonnis is in het Engels vertaald door Haigazn K. Kazarian en gepubliceerd in The Armenian Review, Vol 24 (1971, 4), pag. 19-26.