The Malta Tribunal


“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. ”

To the members of US congress Alvin Toffler

The Malta Tribunal


“New light on the ‘Malta Tribunal of 1919-1921:

Britain’s unsuccessful attempt to bring Turks to trial after WW1”


Uluç Gürkan


2017 BATAS Spring Symposium, May 6, 2017–Saturday

(11.00 – 11.50 A.M. – including Q&A)

Wolfson Lecture Theatre, Senate House, University of London



The “Armenian genocide” lobbies have created a widespread impression that there is “a general international consensus, or to say ultimate acceptance characterizing the 1915 events as genocide”.


This impression is not true. It is wholly baseless. By the way, it is judicially falsified by ECHR. The ECHR in its Perinçek-Switzerland decision of December 17, 2013 and October 15, 2015 made it clear that, there is no such consensus on the “genocide” allegations.


Paragraph 115 of the ECHR 2013 decision mentioned that currently only about 20 states out of more than 190 in the world have officially acknowledged the existence of “Armenian genocide”. ECHR also underlined that these acknowledgments are not of legal, but of political nature.


At this point, I also want to draw your attention to the fact that, the UK is not among those 20 states. As the country that knows best what happened during these days, the UK clearly states that the events of 1915-1916 cannot be described as genocide.


British Governments


In the late 1990s and early 2000s, when Western parliaments were recognizing Armenian genocide claims one after another, the UK was also asked to do the same. Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale, British Spokesperson of Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, rejected that demand in a speech dated April 14, 1999 delivered on behalf of the British government:


in the absence of unequivocal evidence to show that the Ottoman administration took a specific decision to eliminate the Armenians under their control at the time, British governments have not recognized the events of 1915 and 1916 as ‘genocide.’ …we do not believe it is the business of governments today to review events of over 80 years ago with a view to pronouncing on them… These are matters of legal and historical debate.” (


            Despite this statement, the Armenian genocide lobbies have maintained their pressure on the UK, ultimately resulting in the Armenian genocide allegations being addressed during a Holocaust commemoration ceremony held in London on January 27, 2001.


In a press conference held in Ankara on January 22, 2001, Britain’s Beverley Hughes, then parliamentary under-secretary of state in the department of the environment, transport and the regions, stated that only the Holocaust would be addressed during the ceremony and made the following declaration in Istanbul:


A while ago, the British government reviewed evidence put forth on the Armenian allegations and examined documents on the events of 1915-1916. The decision is that these events do not correspond to what is defined as genocide by the UN. This is the attitude of the British government, and this will never change.” (Milliyet & Hürriyet, January 23, 2001)


In a response to a question on this matter, the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Baroness Scotland addressed the House of Lords on February 7, 2001:


“The Government, in line with previous British Governments, have judged the evidence relating to events in eastern Anatolia in 1915-1916 not to be sufficiently unequivocal to persuade us that these events should be categorized as genocide as defined by the 1948 United Nations Convention on Genocide”. ( a551008.pdf)


Here comes the million dollar question: “What evidence was judged and which documents were examined by the British governments?”


The answer is the “Malta Tribunal” of 1919-1921…


The Foreign Office documents unearthed from the British National Achieves about the Malta Tribunal constitutes a new light on the Armenian genocide allegations. It is a light that we have forgotten and indeed were made to forget.


Remembering this tribunal and embracing its reality will make the Armenian genocide lobbies, which at every turn calls on us, the Turks to “face their history”, to face the invalidity of their allegations by examining the British national achieve documented realities of history.


Malta Tribunal documents expose a rather crucial historical fact regarding 1915-1916 events should not be defined as genocide.


If the international public opinion, or those 20 states (i.e. France, Switzerland, Germany…) which have backed the Armenian allegations, have given due to scholarly attention to the historic facts of the Malta Tribunal, they would have then seen that the alleged Armenian genocide is indeed a farce without any validity whatsoever.


In this respect, the successive British governments have adopted such an exemplary international politics with realism, and above all, with integrity and credibility


Ottoman Court-martials


During World War I and afterwards, the British tried to use every opportunity to trial and then sentence every Turk they arrested for the “killing of not only Armenians, but all local Christian people”. 


After World War I, effort to prosecute the so-called “Ottoman war criminals” was taken up with the Ottoman Empire by the (1919) Paris Peace Conference) and ultimately included in the (1920) Treaty of Sèvres).   


By the end of the War, when victorious Allied powers occupied several parts of the Ottoman Empire, the new Ottoman government set up some court-martials to prosecute “crimes against Armenians” under extreme British pressure.


Under this pressure, the court-martials speeded up the so-called judicial process and the sentences were proclaimed and carried out immediately.


The court-martial in Istanbul decided to pass death sentences in absentia on 5 of the leading CUP (Committee of Union and Progress) members. They were accused of being the perpetrator of the “Armenian massacres and the entrance of the Ottoman Empire into World War I.


Meanwhile many other government officials were sentenced to death and the sentences were carried out.


Armenian genocide lobbies regard the Ottoman court-martials as a reliable judicial mechanism proving the genocidal intent of the Ottoman CUP government. (Vahakn N. Dadrian-Taner Akçam, Tehcir ve Taktil, İstanbul: Bilgi Üniversitesi, 2010)


But this is both historically and legally a make-believe replica… The judges assigned to these court-martials felt helpless under strong governmental and external pressure and many of them resigned during the trials.


As well, trial procedures were not appropriate. There were false witnesses; exaggerated testimony, and so forth. And in order to accelerate the “so-called” legal procedures, to hire a lawyer was not permitted and the accused were not allowed to appeal.


Under these conditions, although no clear evidence proving his role in the Armenian massacres could be found, a district governor of Boğazlayan, Kemal Bey, was declared guilty and sentenced to death. The presiding judge of the court-martial, Mustafa Pasha, declared clearly the lack of impartiality in these courts. He stated that “a court-martial operating under occupation acts in line with emotions instead of conscience. This is an order coming from above”.


Kemal Bey’s execution caused significant public outcry against the Ottoman government and the British. This became a turning point for 1919-1920 Ottoman court-martials.


Admiral Calthorpe, the then Commander in Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet, and High Commissioner at İstanbulreported to London that the Ottoman trials were; “proving to be a farce and injurious to our own prestige and to that of the Turkish government.” (FO 371/4174/E.118377: Calthorpe’s report to Foreign Office, No. 1364.5056.14, İstanbul, 01.08.1919)


Admiral John de Robeck, who replaced Admiral Calthorpe informed London of the futility of continuing the trials with the remark: Its findings cannot be held of any account at all.” (FO 371/4174/136069: Telegram from De Robeck to London, 21.09.1919)


In the meantime, current Ottoman government was overthrown. The new government gave the right to appeal to those convicted in the 1919-1920 court-martials. Those who were lightly sentenced had to make their appeal personally. But for those who were sentenced to death and life imprisonment the appeal process was to be automatic. 


The Ottoman Military Court of Appeal investigated the light sentence decisions taken by the court-martials and discovered significant inconsistencies and improprieties in them. Almost all the judgments made by the court-martials were reversed in this Court of Appeal. (Sarınay, 2012, p. 257)


For heavy sentences no Ottoman Court of Appeal has been established. The British authorities considered Ottoman trials as a travesty of justice, so decided to replace the Ottoman justice with the Western justice by moving the trials to their own territory, Malta, as “International”.


Malta Tribunal


Consequently, 144 Ottoman officials and military officers, majority of who were sentenced to death and life imprisonment by Ottoman court-martials were taken from Ottoman prisons, and sent to Malta as prisoners of war.


The aim was “to trial and sentence these Turks” on the grounds that they had perpetrated mass killings against Armenians”.


A judicial prosecution was opened against the Turks who were detained in Malta. The prosecution was conducted for more than two years by Britain’s highest legal prosecution authority, Her Majesty’s Attorney General for England and Wales in London.


Attorney General’s prosecution was based on Articles 230 and 231 of the Treaty of Sèvres on “Armenian massacre” allegations.


Along with the Ottoman archives transported to London after being seized during the 1918 invasion, documents believed to be in America were also examined. In addition proof of the Armenian massacre was searched for in Egypt, Iraq, and Caucasia.


Despite all efforts on the side of the British government to place on trial and sentence the Turks detained in Malta, no evidence that a British court of law could consider sufficient proof against them was found.


Consequently, Attorney General’s prosecution resulted in judgement of nulle prosequi, which amounts to a dismissal of charges by prosecution. Attorney General’s Law Officers wrote to Foreign Ministry of Britain that the Turks detained in Malta “are charged with political offences and their detention or release therefore involves a question of high policy and is not dependent on the legal proceedings…”. (FO 371/6502/E.8545: Memorandum of Law Officers Department to Foreign Office, Londra, 20.05.1921)


Failing the possibility of obtaining proper evidence against Turks at Malta which would satisfy a British Court of Law, the British Foreign Ministry on behalf of Minister Lord Curzon, asked Attorney General to initiate political charges” against 42 of the Turks in Malta and prosecute them “with reasonable prospects if judicial ones cannot be initiated”,  but failed to convince the prosecutor’s office even for that attempt.. (FO 371/6502/E.5845: Letter from Foreign Office to Law Officers Department, 31.05.1921)


The British Attorney General, in a document dated July 29, 1921, informed the British government that the prosecution had to be closed. Because the Attorney General underlined; with the evidence in handnone of the Turks in Malta could be prosecuted on the grounds of the Armenian massacre.


In this document, Attorney General cleared that, “the charges made against the Turks named in the Foreign Office list are of quasi-political character”, and “no statements have been taken from witnesses who can depose to the truth of the charges made against the prisoners.”


Attorney General also stated that, “without… the production of evidence of a character which alone could be admissible before an English Court of Justice… it seems improbable that the charges made against … the accused will be capable of legal proof in a Court of Law.” (FO 371/6504/E.8745: H.M. Prosecutor General memorandum to Undersecretary of Foreign Office, 29.07.1921)


After the British Attorney General’s this July 29, 1921 “no longer prosecution” verdict, there was no legal basis to hold the Turkish prisoners in Malta as “offenders” for prosecution.  Therefore, the British government used them for exchange against British prisoners in Anatolia.


Attorney General decision of July 29, 1921 to dismiss the Armenian massacre accusations for “lack of evidence” corresponds in modern law to a judgement of non prosecution.  It means, “If there is no legal evidence to support the Armenian massacre claims, there is no legal basis to file or bring a lawsuit”.


It goes without question that the British Attorney Generals prosecutor verdict to close the prosecution constitute a legal procedure. It was a prosecution process during which the “Armenian massacre”, or currently termed “genocide” allegations were studiously investigated.


As the Attorney General’s prosecution constitutes the first step to a court trial, we therefore have in hand a judicial ruling stating that the Armenian genocide does not exist. This judgment is the Malta Tribunal.


The Malta Tribunal, with its judicial and historical first hand findings proves that there never was a Turkish policy to exterminate Armenians. Additionally, the findings of this tribunal also falsify nearly 20 parliaments’ resolutions because they were not based on historical facts, but were caused by prejudges and some simple political self-interests.


Support of Armenian genocide allegations are laid with second, if not third or fourth hand illegal findings.


U.N. Genocide Convention


Genocide” is a legal term. It should not be politicized. It needs to be debated lawfully. Characterizing a historical event as genocide is not something to be labeled through personal decisions but only through legal evaluation.


The 1948 United Nations (Genocide) Convention (on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide) describes this term as an international crime and establishes its legal framework. I think, for any debate on genocide, at least four of this 19-article convention needs to be known.   


Firstly, articles 2 and 3… These articles define the crimes of genocide that can be punished under the convention. These crimes are those acts committed “with the intent to destroy a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”


The key element of the crime is the “intent to destroy” a group. Without the “intent to destroy”, no act can be ticketed as genocide.


In the literature of law, the special intent called dolus specialis is necessarily sought in genocide accusations. Articles 187, 188 and 189 of the International Court of Justice’s Bosnia ruling explicitly state that “a separate notional element must be present” in order to define an act as genocide.


This notional element is also present in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia’s (ICTY) Kupreskic case as “the need for the presence of intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a group.” (Pulat Tacar, Avrupa İnsan Hakları Mahkemesi’nin Doğu Perinçek-İsviçre Davası, İstanbul: Kaynak Yayınları, 2012 – pp. 99-100)


In this context, allegations of a “systematic campaign of destruction” of Armenians and other Christian minorities in the Ottoman Empire are based on legally faked and historically spurious claims.


An achieve document explicitly concurring that the Ottoman government did not intend to exterminate the Armenians comes from the League of Nations.


Secretary General of the League, British politician and diplomat Sir Eric Drummond on March 1, 1920 stated that, “in Turkey, minorities were often oppressed and massacres carried out by irregular bands who were entirely outside the control of the Central Turkish Government”. (League of Nations – Important Documents: “University of Bradford”  Armenia and the League of Nations – Documents from the United Nations Library, Geneva; League of Nations Archives Collections “Note Verbal” by Secretary-General Sir Eric Drummond, dated March 1, 1920)


As well, 1915-1916 Ottoman court-martials historically confirm Sir Drummond. The Ottoman 1915-1916 court-martials. 1,673 Ottoman subjects (975 civilian bandits from irregular bands, together with 528 government officials and 170 local officials) accused of alleged crimes against the Armenians during the relocation of 1915 were put on trial and sentenced by the Ottoman government.


Can you think that a government planning a relocation for the  destruction of the Armenians, but trialing and sentencing hundreds of its citizens and officials for ill treatment to the Armenians?


 It is absurd.


Achieve documents relating to the Ottoman trials during World War I should be revealed and not be forgotten on the dusty shelves of history. These trials completely prove that the Ottoman government had no intention to exterminate the Armenians.


Besides Ottoman archives, British, French, Russian and American archive documents concur that the Ottoman government did not intend to exterminate the Armenians. The 1915 war-time decision on the relocation was based on the fact of the Armenian armed rebellion and cooperation with the invading Russian army. (Edward J. Ericson, Ottomans and Armenians, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013)


Professor of Military History Edward Ericson’s carefully researched study, “Ottomans and Armenians” provides irrefutable evidence that the sole motive of the Ottoman military command in recommending that the “relocation” of Armenians in 1915 was the threat to the war effort from Armenian insurgent groups mobilized with the support of Russia.


The deportation, planned as “a military precaution” to head off an Armenian uprising against the Ottoman state with volunteer troops on the battlefield and gangs behind military lines, during the Russian occupation of Eastern Anatolia, created many victims.


“It was self-defense for the Turks says Professor Ericson and adds:


“The Ottoman Government had every right to protect the lives of their Muslim subjects who constituted the majority of the population in the areas selected for declaration of their autonomous state of Armenia.


Princeton University Ottoman Historian, Professor Bernard Lewis points out that what happened was a “war time tragedy”.  And to say that “the massacre of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire was the same as what happened to Jews in Nazi Germany is a downright falsehood”...


What happened to the Armenians” Prof. Lewis adds, “was the result of a massive Armenian armed rebellion against the Turks, which began even before war broke out, and continued on a larger scale…  To make this a parallel with the holocaust in Germany, you would have to assume the Jews of Germany had been engaged in an armed rebellion against the German state, collaborating with the allies against German…This seems to me a rather absurd parallel”. (1 April 14, 2002, at the National Press Club on C-Span 2)


Hovannes Katchaznouni, the first Prime Minister of the Independent Armenian Republic (1918-1919) is the eyewitness of both Professor Lewis and Prof. Ericson.


Katchaznouni’s report to the 1923 ARF (Armenian Revolutionary Federation) Congress refutes the grandiose, exaggerated and even outrageously false claims the Armenian Genocide lobbies.


            In his report Katchaznouni underlines that the Armenians rebelled against the Ottoman Empire and were at war with the Turks during the World War I.  He says, The Winter of 1914 and the spring of 1915 were the periods of greatest enthusiasm and hope for all the Armenians in the Caucasus… We had no doubt the war would end with the complete victory of the Allies; Turkey would be defeated and dismembered, and its Armenian population would at last be liberated.”

As well, Armenian armed rebellion was confessed by many Armenian activists. Gatrekin Pastermadjian in his book titled Why Armenia Should be Free” (Boston: Heirenik Press, 1918) wrote as follows:


 “…purpose of the writer in writing this booklet, is to make great American people realize that Armenians are not anemic and unaggressive people with no fighting blood in their veins; that the Armenians have not been butchered like sheep but on the contrary, have fought most bravely and resisted most stubbornly the savage attacks of the Turks, whenever they had an opportunity”  (p. 10)   


 “The Armenian reservists, about 160.000 in the number gladly responded to the call for the simple reason that they were to fight the arch enemy of their historic race! Besides regular soldiers, nearly 20.000 volunteers expressed their readiness to take up arms against the Turk.” (p. 19)


            “Opposite Sarikamish, where a battle was waged for three days and nights, the Turks suffered a loss of 30.000 men, mostly due to the cold weather than to the Russian arms… This was invaluable service rendered to the Russian army by the fourth battalion of the Armenian volunteers under the command of matchless Keri. Six hundred Armenian veterans fell in the Barduz Pass, and at such a high price saved 60.000 Russians from being taken prisoners by the Turks.” (p.21)


“…those few battalions of Armenian volunteers in 1914 and 1915, rendered to the Russians invaluable services, twice saving the right and left wings of the Russian army from an unavoidable catastrophe…” (p.28)


Many forgotten American achieve documents also mention the armed Armenian rebellion.


The Report of Niles & Sutherland: At first we were most incredulous of the stories told us, but the unanimity of the testimony  of alt witnesses, the apparent eagerness with which they told of wrongs done them, their evident hatred of Armenians, and, strongest of all, the material evidence on the ground itself, have convinced us as of the general truth of the facts, first, that Armenians massacred Mussulmans on a large scale with many refinements of cruelty, and second that Armenians are responsible for most of the destruction done to towns and villages. The Russians and Armenians occupied the country for a considerable time together in 1915…” (U.S. National Archives Ref. 184.021/175 – Constantinople, Aug. 16, 1919)      


Congress Report 266 – American Mission to Armenia: “We know, however, so much to be a fact that the Armenians in the new State are carrying on operations in view of exterminating the Mussulman element in obedience to orders from the Armenian corps commander. We have had copies of their orders under our eyes.


That the Armenians of Erivan are following a policy of extermination against the Mussulman and this wave of sanguinary savagery has spread right up to our frontier is also established by the fact of the presence within our borders of numerous Mussulman fleeing from death on the other side.


The government of Erivan has, on the other hand, resorted to direct acts of provocation such as the practice of gunfire this side of the border.” (US Congress Report 266, April 13, 1920, approved unanimously)    


Even though it was a war time tragedy and “a military self-defense precaution” to head off an uprising against the Ottoman state, deportation was doubtlessly a painful period for Ottoman Armenians It created many victims.


But what happened during this period cannot be considered solely the grief of the Armenians who were harmed. It is the grief of all Anatolian people, Christian and Muslim. So that pain should be shared and, when required, mourned together.


Here, to answer the painful question of “what happened to Armenians during World War I”, we have another League of Nations archive document. League of Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Nobel Prize Laureate Fridthjof Nansen’s address to the General Assembly on September 21, 1921 consents to this fact:


“When League began to discuss this (Armenian) question, it came to the conclusion that it should perhaps try to do something for those refugees… For this decision there was at least one good reason, as regards several countries at least, since during the war, when Armenians were driven out of Asia Minor and treated so badly by the Turks, the Allied Western Powers had said to the Armenians: “If you fight with us against the Turks, and if the war ends successfully for us, we promise to give a national home, liberty and independence…


The Armenians fought for the Allied Powers. Two hundred thousand volunteers sacrificed their lives for the case of the Entente; but when the Armistice was signed and peace concluded, the promise given to the Armenians was forgotten.


It has been brought in this Assembly, not once, but in three different years, and unanimous resolutions have been solemnly adopted in this Assembly to the effect that we would see to it that the Armenians get their national home.” (League of Nations Official Gazette, 21.9.1929; declaration of Fridjhof Nansen)


We also need to know article 6 of the UN’s 1948 Genocide Convention.


According to this article, in order for an event to be considered genocide; there should be a court ruling. This is an obligatory legal condition.


The article is as follows: “Persons charged with genocide”… shall be tried by a competent tribunal of the state in the territory of which the act was committed, or by such international penal tribunal as may have jurisdiction with respect to those Contracting Parties which shall have accepted its jurisdiction.”


Here we have to underline that, there is no national or international court ruling characterizing the 1915 events as genocide. Neither the intent of a systematic extermination of Armenians nor the number of victims of the war tragedy of 1915 was ever established by any tribunal. No court decision was issued to interpret those days inter-communal violence as an act of genocide consistent with the relevant 1948 United Nations Convention.


Perhaps, more important is the fact that, there is an international court ruling declaring the opposite and falsifying the Armenian genocide allegations. That is the “International Court-Martial in Malta”, which is known as the Malta Tribunal.


 At the same time, the prosecution of the British Attorney General was an antecedent to the Nurnberg Trials – the trial concerning the Holocaust after the Second World War…


The prosecutorial process on Malta shared an international judicial atmosphere similar to that of the Nuremberg. Accordingly, the Malta Tribunal is also a judicial decision consistent with the relevant 1948 United Nations Genocide Convention clearing that the Armenian genocide does not exist.  


This sets apart the 1915 events alleged by Armenians both historically and legally from the Holocaust.


There is ample evidence recognized by competent international courts proving that genocide was committed in Nazi Germany against Jews. Therefore the Jewish genocide is an undisputable historical fact.


The “Armenian genocide” claims cannot be considered the same way as the Holocaust.


Lastly article 4…


This article relates the “punishable acts” to the individual criminal responsibility. According to this article only real persons – not legal entities – can be charged with the crime of genocide. 


Despite this binding judicial clause, “Armenian genocide” accusations are usually leveled towards Turkey and the Turkish nation as a whole, not only to our ancestors but to those who were not even born then, rather than real persons. Thereby these accusations gain a quality of “hate speech” against Turkish people.


Besides being a crime in itself, “hate speech” is a double standard. A double standard based on historical prejudices that turn the Armenian allegations to some sort of a pro-Christian story.


Pope Francis’ approval of Armenian genocide claims is the last version of this story.


Double standards based on prejudices are symptoms of a diseased political culture. They should not lead us. We have to overcome our prejudices and eliminate all our racial hatreds.


Here, I believe that historical and legal realities of Malta Tribunal brought to light from British national achieves will give us an opportunity to meet on common ground.


Perhaps on this common ground, the sensitivity shown towards non-Turks and Muslims will also be shown towards Muslims, either Turkish or Kurdish. Because, during World War I the Ottoman state was fighting on many fronts the “human tragedies” of the war needs to be considered as a whole, without discrimination based on race or religion.


Malta Tribunal is a grey area free of hatred, instead of simple black and white. As far as the 1915 Armenian deportation is concerned, this grey area will demonstrate that while the legitimate reasons for the deportation do not “legitimize” the pain endured, on the other hand, neither does this pain eliminate the legitimate reasons for deportation.


To conclude, Malta Tribunal is the key to overcome the prejudices and face the historical facts. As Thomas Cooper (1759-1839) an Anglo-American economist, college president and political philosopher said, Fraud and falsehood only dread examination. Truth invites it”.



Discrediting Malta



This is why the Armenian genocide lobbies are making great effort to discredit the Malta Tribunal.


The aim is to create the illusion that Malta did not entail actual legal proceedings.


They take recourse to a series of historic and legal falsehoods:


·       The Malta proceedings were nothing but a show. The actual goal was an “exchange of captives.”

·       As the liberation movement in Anatolia gained strength, the British gave up on Malta.

·       No charges were filed, and the international court provided for in Sèvres was not established.

·       Sèvres was never entered into force and with the signing of Lausanne, the Malta proceedings were abandoned.

·       The investigations carried out on Malta were not about “genocide.” Therefore the judgment cannot constitute a reference against “genocide” allegations.


Exchange of captives


Allegations suggesting that the Malta Tribunals were not taken seriously by the British, as they rather considered them a “captive exchange project,” are wholly not credible.


Judicial proceedings of Malta Tribunal conducted over the “Armenian massacre” charges are documented in the British archives. Despite that, the “genocide” lobby shamelessly tries to falsify Malta Tribunal.


This lobby makes reference to European Court of Human Rights judge Giovanni Bonello saying that “the release of the Turkish detainees was accomplished in exchange for 22 British prisoners held by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.” (Giovanni Bonello, Histories of Malta – Confessions and Transgressions, Vol.9( Fondazzjoni Patrimonju Malti, 2008, ISBN 978-99932-7-224-3)


According to judge Bonello, the Turks deported to Malta by the British during the Allied occupation of Istanbul were never actually brought to trial (there or elsewhere), because no international legal framework existed for doing so, and that in the end the situation was resolved pragmatically by an agreement with the Ankara government to exchange the remaining deportees for British prisoners of war in October-November 1921


If not ignorance, this is a big historical lie.


The Malta Tribunals did not end with an exchange of captives. On the contrary, they ended with a “judgement of non prosecution” declared by the British Attorney General.


The exchange of captives issue arose thereafter.


Officers of the British Foreign Office began to think about the release of the Turkish prisoners at Malta after the British Attorney General’s July 29, 1921 decision, From now on they were not considered as “offenders” for prosecution, but rather as “hostages for exchange” against British prisoners in Anatolia.


Before any final decision, British High Commissioner at Istanbul was asked if he had any observation on the subject.  A Foreign Office dispatch to High Commissioner dated August 10, 1921, said:


“In addition to the difficulty caused by the absence of evidence which would be acceptable in a court of law, there is improbability that the French and Italian Governments would agree to participate in constituting the court provided for in article 230 of the Treaty of Sérves.”


Some say that an exchange of captives’ agreement was signed in London on 16 March 1921 between the government of Britain and Bekir Sami Bey, the foreign minister of the Grand National Assembly government in Ankara which led the War of Independence in Anatolia.


However, not all the Turks held in Malta fall within the scope of this agreement. The scope of the envisaged captive exchange was the release of all British captives by the Turks in exchange for “the return of the Turks who have not harmed or abused Armenians or British captives,” by the British.


The British organized the Conference of London with their allies when they were compelled to accept the War of Independence under Mustafa Kemal’s leadership and the government of the Grand National Assembly, after the First İnönü Victory of January 1921.


The aim here was to partially soften the Sèvres agreement and convince Ankara to accept it.


It was after the Conference of London that Bekir Sami Bey signed the captive exchange agreement. The British did not include those Turks in Malta accused with the “Armenian genocide” in this exchange of captives.


On the other hand, Ankara did not ratify the softened Sèvres or the limited-scope captive exchange agreement signed by Bekir Sami Bey, who then was dismissed from his duty as foreign minister.


The detention of Turks in Malta on the grounds of an Armenian massacre ended with the Attorney Generals declaration of dismissal of “Armenian massacre” allegations due to the absence of evidence on 29 July 1921.


Therefore, the release of Turks whose “detention” turned into “political captivity” is documented in the British archives.


Upon the dismissal declaration by the Attorney General’s Office, British Foreign Minister Lord Curzon sent a memo on 10 August 1921 to Sir Horace Rumbold, Britain’s high commissioner in İstanbul, mentioning “the obligation to make a general agreement.” (FO 371/6504/E.8745: Telegram from FM to Rumbold. Tel. No 851 of 08.10. 1921)


The response of the high commissioner can be summarized as follows: “Since no adequate evidence was found to convince a British Court of Law, all Turks should be included in the exchange of captives to avoid losing more reputation.” (FO 371/6504/E.10023: From Harrington to Rumbold, 24. 08. 1921)


Thus began the negotiations for exchange which ultimately led to an agreement.



The Struggle for Independence


Another falsification aimed at discrediting the Malta Tribunals suggests that British attempts to reconcile with the National Struggle movement influenced the Attorney General’s dismissal.


Such falsification does not reject the proceedings which took place on Malta but attempts to discredit them by giving them a political character, which is at odds with historical reality.


The Attorney General’s Office declared its dismissal decision regarding the “Armenian massacre” on July 29, 1921, a time when the national liberation movement was weak.


The Greek Army had captured Kütahya and Eskişehir on July 17 and 19 respectively which led to the retreat of the national liberation forces to the east of the Sakarya River. The sound of Greek shells targeting Polatlı were heard from Ankara, and there were debates over relocating the Grand National Assembly (Parliament) from Ankara to Kayseri.


Britain had no initiative for reconciling with Ankara which would affect the Attorney General. On the contrary, the British government was dreaming of dealing a deadly blow to Ankara. (FO 371/6502/E.5845: From FO to AGO, 31. 05.1921)


The National Independence Movement’s recovery and establishing a balance with the Greek forces took place two months after the Attorney General’s dismissal decision..


A Non-Established Court


Those seeking to discredit the Malta Tribunals argue that no competent international court was established as required by the Treaty of Sèvres and therefore no judicial proceedings took place in line with the UN Convention on Genocide.


They claim, the Allied administration that occupied İstanbul fell short of establishing an international tribunal to try the Turks prisoners held as captive by the British forces in Malta. In the end, no tribunals were held in Malta.


According to European Court of Human Rights judge Giovani Bonello, the suspension of prosecutions, the repatriation and release of Turkish detainees was amongst others a result of the lack of an appropriate legal framework with supranational jurisdiction, because following World War I no international norms for regulating war crimes existed.


Since there were no international laws in place under which they could be tried, the men who orchestrated the genocide escaped prosecution. (The Malta Independent, ‘Claim about Malta Trials is nonsense’, 19 April 2012. Retrieved 10 August 2013)


To argue that the Turkish detainees in Malta were not brought to trial because following World War I no international norms for regulating war crimes existed, due to a legal vacuum in international law; is insufficiency of knowledge, if not prejudice.  


The Malta prosecution was conducted in order to establish a court similar to the “international court” later formed in Nuremberg to put German Nazi leaders on trial for the Holocaust. After World War I, the effort to prosecute Ottoman war criminals was taken up by the Paris Peace Conference (1919) and ultimately included in the Treaty of Sèvres (1920) with the Ottoman Empire.


The establishment phase of the international court where the Ottoman officials and military officers were supposed to be put on trial was also discussed by the League of Nations, the post-First World War predecessor to the United Nations. During its sessions, among the topics that were discussed were the methods to use to establish a court which would carry out such prosecutions and an “Advisory Board” was formed for this purpose. (New York Times, “League invites Wilson to Mediate for Armenians: Root Court Plan modified”, 26.11.1920, p.1, column 5)


These preparations had not been realized. Because British Attorney General put no Ottoman official and military officer on trial for Armenian massacre allegations. He declared that no charges could be filed due to “lack of evidence” and made it clear that no penal action could be taken even if charges were filed.


It is not that proceedings weren’t conducted on Malta due to the lack of a court. The proceedings actually started upon completion of the legal investigation, but no charges were filed, which means no “prosecution” before a court was initiated.


By the end of the CPS-led investigation which constituted the first phase of the judicial proceedings, no evidence suggesting “the mass killing” of Armenians and Christian Ottoman citizens was found, which would lead to “filing charges in a court of law.” Thus the dismissal decision and dismissal of the “Armenian massacre” accusations led to the case being closed.


 It is known that if any evidence capable of proof was found, charges would have been filed and a trial would have been carried out by an international court designated by the League of Nations. This is why the establishment of such a court was among the topics discussed by the League of Nations.


The Attorney General’s decision to dismiss the Armenian massacre accusations for “lack of evidence” corresponds in modern law to a “judgment of dismissal.” This means, there was no need for a court.


Remission by Lausanne


The Malta falsification that the “Armenian genocide” lobby relies on the most is as follows: “Since Sèvres never went into force, with the signing of Lausanne, the Malta proceedings were granted amnesty and closed.”


            Saying that the Malta proceedings were granted amnesty by Lausanne is a time travel trick mocking human intelligence. It is true that Ottoman Sultan Vahdettin didn’t ratify the Sèvres Treaty, despite its signature by the Turkish side. However, this does not mean that it didn’t go into force. First of all, the invasion led by the British and allies was in line with Sèvres’ map. Likewise, the justification for the illegal invasion of Istanbul came from Sèvres.


            The Malta proceedings came to an end on July 29, 1921, and Lausanne was signed two years later, on July 24, 1923. At that time, no proceeding existed that could be linked to Malta. The files were closed and archived.


            The most important agent of this time travel between Lausanne and Malta is renowned British genocide law specialist Geoffrey Robertson. In a report entitled “Was there an Armenian genocide?” presented to the British Parliament in October 2009, Robertson writes that the British Attorney General’s investigation initiated on Malta after WWI into the “Armenian massacre” “was closed with the establishment of the new Turkish Republic under the leadership of Ataturk, and therefore is of no judicial value. (Full text:


Written by Robertson in exchange for money from the Armenian diaspora, this report aims to make the British Parliament accept the “genocide” allegations. Believing that the failure of British governments and Parliament to make a move in this regard is due to their sensitivity to the Malta Tribunals, the “genocide” lobby attempted to overcome this problem through Robertson’s work. But they forgot that the Malta proceedings came to an end on July 29, 1921, and Lausanne was signed two years later, on July 24, 1923


Reference to Genocide


The last falsification of the “Armenian genocide” lobby targeting Malta suggests, “The Malta proceedings did not include genocide, as at that time such a crime had not yet been defined. Therefore, the Attorney General’s decision cannot constitute a judicial reference today as to the nullity of the Armenian genocide claims.”


Such an allegation is contradictory. If the Malta proceedings are to be declared null and void on the grounds that no such “genocide” definition existed at that time, such an accusation also cannot be done today using the contemporary notion of “genocide,” for the events took place at a time when no such notion existed.


It means practicing double standards to reject the Malta Tribunals’ judicial findings today and attempting to apply the contemporary crime of “genocide” to the past. This is the result of a sick political culture.


Besides, no matter what theoretical judicial reasons are used to defend it, it is not in line with the realities of life.


In its Perinçek-Switzerland decision of December 17, 2013, the ECtHR ruled that the condemnation of Doğu Perinçek by Swiss courts on the grounds of his remarks suggesting that “the treatment of Armenians during WWI cannot be interpreted as genocide” violated Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights on freedom of expression.


The clear meaning of this ruling is that “expressing that the 1915 Armenian deportation is not genocide cannot and will not constitute a basis for condemnation.


This ECtHR decision is a clear shield protecting freedom of expression against the insistence that “the Armenian genocide is an undeniable historical fact,” thus paving the way for free debate.


However, it should not be viewed only within the limited context of freedom of expression. Its meaning and importance go beyond that.


·       The widespread impression created by the “Armenian genocide” lobby that “there is a general international consensus characterizing the 1915 events as genocide” is not true. There is no such consensus which would mean “ultimate acceptance” of the “genocide” allegations. Out of a total of 190 states, there are only 20 that recognize the “Armenian genocide.”


·       The 1915 events against Armenians are both historically and legally different from the Holocaust. No link can be established between the Ottoman Armenians and German Jews. There is ample evidence recognized by competent international courts proving that genocide was committed in Nazi Germany against Jews. Therefore the Jewish genocide is an undisputable historical fact. However, the “Armenian genocide” claims are open to debate, and there is no court ruling on the issue. It cannot be considered the same way as the Holocaust.




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