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Judgment at Istanbul

Judgment at Istanbul: The Armenian Genocide Trials

Vahakn N. Dadrian
Taner Akçam
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 376
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  • Book Info
    Judgment at Istanbul
    Book Description:

    Turkey's bid to join the European Union has lent new urgency to the issue of the Armenian Genocide as differing interpretations of the genocide are proving to be a major reason for the delay of the its accession. This book provides vital background information and is a prime source of legal evidence and authentic Turkish eyewitness testimony of the intent and the crime of genocide against the Armenians. After a long and painstaking effort, the authors, one an Armenian, the other a Turk, generally recognized as the foremost experts on the Armenian Genocide, have prepared a new, authoritative translation and detailed analysis of the Takvim-i Vekayi, the official Ottoman Government record of the Turkish Military Tribunals concerning the crimes committed against the Armenians during World War I. The authors have compiled the documentation of the trial proceedings for the first time in English and situated them within their historical and legal context. These documents show that Wartime Cabinet ministers, Young Turk party leaders, and a number of others inculpated in these crimes were court-martialed by the Turkish Military Tribunals in the years immediately following World War I. Most were found guilty and received sentences ranging from prison with hard labor to death. In remarkable contrast to Nuremberg, the Turkish Military Tribunals were conducted solely on the basis of existing Ottoman domestic penal codes. This substitution of a national for an international criminal court stands in history as a unique initiative of national self-condemnation. This compilation is significantly enhanced by an extensive analysis of the historical background, political nature and legal implications of the criminal prosecution of the twentieth century's first state-sponsored crime of genocide.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-286-3
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)
    Vahakn N. Dadrian and Taner Akçam

    The present volume is a study of the World War I Armenian Genocide as documented through the Ottoman Special Military Tribunal’s criminal prosecution of the perpetrators involved. The ostensible aim of these post–World War I courts-martial was the exposure and punishment of the organizers of the crime. However, two ancillary considerations were also at play. Wary of the gravity of that crime and the widespread outrage it touched off, the new leaders of the defeated and almost prostrate Ottoman Empire were well disposed to accommodate the victorious Allies, especially the predominant British. Having the Ottoman capital under their control...

  5. PART I. The Conditions Surrounding the Trials

    • CHAPTER 1 History of the Turko-Armenian Conflict
      (pp. 13-18)
      Vahakn N. Dadrian

      Even though this study has a legal-criminological framework and thus a rather narrow focus, its extralegal underpinnings and ramifications nevertheless require a broad perspective. A proper definition of the term “genocide” is necessary to such a perspective. Presently that definition is anchored in four basic determinants. Genocide presupposes:

      1. A protracted perpetrator-victim conflict that has a history and that persists in defying a resolution.

      2. A substantial disparity in power relations between perpetrator and victim, yielding the correlative victim vulnerability factor.

      3. The opportunity factor: even a most adept criminal must know how to bide his time until the moment when a suitable...

    • CHAPTER 2 Military Defeat and the Victors’ Drive for Punitive Justice
      (pp. 19-77)
      Vahakn N. Dadrian

      Within days after signing the Armistice Agreement with Turkish authorities on 30 October 1918, the victorious Allies, led by the British, entered Istanbul, the capital of the then militarily defeated Ottoman Empire, whose leaders had sued for cessation of hostilities and for an armistice. Even though the terms of the armistice were not as harsh as might be expected, the anxiety enveloping a succession of postwar Turkish governments was considerable, relative to the final terms of the impending peace treaty. That anxiety was shared by large segments of the Turkish public. The dire conditions of the postwar economy and the...

    • CHAPTER 3 The Preparations for Courts-Martial
      (pp. 78-92)
      Vahakn N. Dadrian

      The preparations coincided with the process of transition from Tevfik Paşa’s cabinet to that of Damad Ferit, who, while serving five different times as grand vizier in the 4 March 1919–17 October 1920 period, played a central role throughout these courts-martial.¹ The turbulence, the limited successes, and the significant failures marking these proceedings were therefore factors that were closely linked to the personality and policies of this postwar Turkish leader. Superseding these factors in importance was a series of developments that were as precipitous as they were unsettling for the Turkish general public. The mood of abject resignation to...

    • CHAPTER 4 The Initiation of Courts-Martial
      (pp. 93-100)
      Vahakn N. Dadrian

      There were two fundamental reasons why the recourse to military justice was more efficient and more promising. First, the statutes of state of siege (idare-i-örfiye), which were first instituted on 2 October 1877 in connection with the Russo-Turkish War and were twice supplemented on 2 July 1909 and 1 September 1910, were still in force. Hence, martial law was applicable at the time. Second, Article 3 of that law transferred law-and-order functions from the purview of the Cabinet Council to that of military authorities while providing that respective decisions and administrative measures be carried out by local police. Moreover, Ottoman...

    • CHAPTER 5 Emergent Kemalism and the Courts-Martial
      (pp. 101-107)
      Vahakn N. Dadrian

      The crucial significance of the new challenge posed by the Kemalist movement, which had been gathering strength in Anatolia in the 1919–1920 period, is revealed in the eventual demise of the sultan’s government. Grand Vizier Damad Ferit’s growing inability to confront and eliminate the threat issuing from that movement proved fatal. The rise of the Defense of Rights movement, culminating in the victory of the new Turkish nationalists in the October–November 1919 parliamentary elections, and these nationalists’ ensuing sway in the new Chamber of Deputies convening in Istanbul in January 1920,¹ as well as the fact of Mustafa...

    • CHAPTER 6 The Series of Major Trials and the Related Verdicts: Falsification of the Arguments of “Relocation,” “Civil War,” and “Intercommunal Clashes”
      (pp. 108-125)
      Vahakn N. Dadrian

      The court-martial proceedings may be divided into three major categories: (1) geographic areas and related middle-level and minor officials; (2) cabinet ministers and CUP’s Central Committee members (recognizing the fact that the top leaders of the latter group, especially Talaat and Enver, were at the same time identified with the former group), and (3) responsible secretaries and delegates. When assessing the key role this latter group played in executing CUP’s overt and covert major schemes, which included the Armenian deportations and massacres in particular, Tunaya, the late dean of Turkish political scientists, described them as “most dependable” party functionaries; “the...

    • CHAPTER 7 Legal Proceedings as a Conceptual Framework
      (pp. 126-153)
      Vahakn N. Dadrian

      As underscored in the introduction to this study, the prosecution of the crime of the wartime organized mass murder of the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire was an unprecedented event in several respects. Foremost among these was the fact that a postwar Turkish government not only officially acknowledged it, but more important—and defying an entrenched tradition of impunity in such cases—it ventured to investigate and punish the crime and its perpetrators. Equally if not more significant was the fact that the suspected perpetrators belonged to the highest echelons of the government and to the monolithic political party, the...

    • CHAPTER 8 A Summary of the Conditions Surrounding the Trials
      (pp. 154-176)
      Vahakn N. Dadrian

      Generally speaking, the nature of legal prosecution is such that the verdicts resulting from it address the matter of truth in a rather restricted manner, namely, one that is consistent with “the rule of law.” In this sense it is “legal” truth that is at issue here and not necessarily truth in a broader sense. Moreover, verdicts, as a matter of judicial principle, presuppose a type of evidentiary material that is probative and hence is tested for relevance as well as veracity. It is most significant that in the Istanbul court-martial proceedings two conditions prevailed—conditions that not only invaluably...

    • CHAPTER 9 The Judicial Liquidation of Some of the Arch Perpetrators by Both CUP and Kemalist Authorities, and the Demise of Other Accomplices
      (pp. 177-192)
      Vahakn N. Dadrian

      The existing literature on the Armenian Genocide makes but scant reference to the array of methods of retribution variously applied against many of the principal perpetrators of this wartime mass murder. One of the main reasons for this was the embarrassment and anxiety that the proceedings of the postwar Turkish courts-martial prosecuting the authors of the genocide produced throughout Turkey. Only grudgingly had the Turkish authorities agreed to institute these criminal proceedings. These trepidations were offset, however, by the expectation that in return for this prosecutorial effort, militarily defeated Turkey might be treated less harshly at the projected peace treaty...

  6. PART II. The Trials and Beyond

    • CHAPTER 10 Death Sentences Handed Down by the Military Tribunal in Istanbul
      (pp. 195-199)
      Taner Akçam

      Eighteen defendants in the Istanbul Number One Extraordinary Court-Martial were condemned to death for crimes against the Armenians. Additional death sentences were meted out during the genocide and during the Republic Period. Of these eighteen persons, fifteen were condemned in absentia, leaving the number of defendants ultimately executed at three. The British commissioner in Istanbul, Mr. Webb, made the following observation on the matter: “It is interesting to see ... the manner in which the sentences have been apportioned among the absent and present so as to effect a minimum of real bloodshed.¹

      1) Mehmet Kemal, the district head of...

    • CHAPTER 11 Coverage of the Trials by the Istanbul Turkish Press
      (pp. 200-250)
      Taner Akçam

      In the aftermath of World War I, the newly established Ottoman government began its term with the prosecution of war criminals, those accused of misappropriation of government funds, and the perpetrators of massacres against the Armenians. The trials of the military tribunal, or Divan-ı Harbi Örfi, were conducted between 1919 and 1922, mainly in Istanbul, though some were carried out in various provinces of Turkey. The following is an attempt to compile a comprehensive list of those trials that pertain to the massacres and deportation of the Armenians. Other cases investigated by the same court involving other crimes will generally...

    • CHAPTER 12 The Formation and Operation of the Ottoman Military Tribunals
      (pp. 251-270)
      Taner Akçam

      The initial impetus to form special military tribunals (Divan-ı Harbi Örfi) in order to prosecute those who were suspected of crimes in connection with the deportation and massacres of Armenians appeared in November 1919.¹ It is important to point out, however, that both during this period and in the years preceding there were already military tribunals in operation. The reason they were in existence at all had to do with the fact that starting in April 1909 (with the exception of the period from 15 July to 7 August 1912), the Ottoman Empire had been under martial law.²

      It was...

    • CHAPTER 13 The Full Texts in English of the Indictments and Verdicts
      (pp. 271-332)

      Unlike the other chapters of the present volume, this one differs in that it comprises a verbatim translation of every document. As indicated in the chapter’s title, presented here are the texts of the twin indictments as well as those of the seven verdicts, almost all of which were issued following a series of court-martial trials run by a military tribunal. The original source in Ottoman Turkish for each document is described above the title of that document. In some cases, the translators have added explanatory phrases and clarifications between square brackets.

      The Extraordinary Military Tribunal’s Key Indictment in the...

    (pp. 333-334)
    (pp. 335-336)
    (pp. 337-347)
    (pp. 348-355)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 356-364)