Episode 26 – Malta Tribunal 1 – Collapse of the official Armenian Narrative

Bilâl Şimşir, a Turkish researcher born in 1933, is a prolific writer, a career diplomat, an academician, and a historian. He wrote 57 books and 160 essays. His research in the British archives regarding the Malta Tribunal was published in the Proceedings of Symposium on Armenians in the Ottoman Empire and Turkey (1912-1926), Bogazici University Publications, Istanbul, 1984. What follows is a summary of his findings on pages 26 through 41. Armistice between Turkey and Britain was signed at Mudros on October 30, 1918, and British Navy controlled Turkish waters and allied troops took possession of key positions. On March 16, 1916, Allied military officially occupied Istanbul along with other key parts of the Ottoman Empire. Some prominent Turks were arrested and deported to Malta. Arrests and relocations continued up to November 1920, totaling 144 Turkish deportees at its peak. Among the deportees were Ottoman Grand Vizier, Members of Parliament, State Ministers, Generals, Governors, University Professors, Journalists, and more. They were accused of three categories of alleged offences: 1-failure to comply with Armistice terms, 2- ill-treatment of British prisoners of war, and 3-outrages to Armenians in Turkey and Transcaucasia. British Foreign Office document bin number 371 contains all the documents mentioned. With arbitrary input from Armenian and Greek informants and the Armenian Patriarchate, several “Blacklists” of alleged “Turkish War Criminals” were created and 160 to 200 persons had been arrested in January 1919, by the Government of Tevfik Pasha. Meanwhile the Tevfik Pasha’s invited five neutral European governments, namely Spain, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, and Switzerland, to contribute two legal scholars each to a joint committee to investigate the alleged abuses during the Armenian relocation. (This move alone clearly shows that Turkey had nothing to fear about the alleged war crimes, as guilty people do not invite independent investigators.) Alarmed by this daring Turkish move, the British Foreign Office obstructed it. (The discovery of the wartime propaganda and lies in the Blue Books demonizing Turks and Germans would only embarrass Britain. That is why Britain destroyed all the documents in the Wellington House, Britain’s propaganda office, right after the WWI.) Despite the lack of evidence as to the alleged “massacres”, the British High Commission continued to ask for more and more arrests in March and April 1919, without any serious investigations. On May 28, the British have taken over from Turkish prison 67 selected detainees, placed them on board HMS Princess Ena, and the shipped them to Malta. Despite French opposition, the British continued deporting Turkish prisoners throughout the summer of 1919. In the morning of March 16, 1920, all the official buildings in Istanbul, including the Ottoman Parliament, were forcibly occupied by the troops of the Entente Powers, and several prominent Turkish nationalist leaders were arrested. Mustafa Kemal Pasha, the Leader of the Turkish National Movement, retaliated with the arrest of some 20 British officers in Anatolia. On August 10th, 1920, the notoriously unfair Peace Treaty of Sevres, described by Mustafa Kemal Pasha as “a death sentence for the Turkish nation,” was imposed upon the Ottoman Government, but never ratified. After the successful conclusion of the Turkish Independence War in 1922 and Lausanne Treaty in 1923, the stillborn Sevres Treaty was torn and thrown into the trash bin of history. The British authorities were hesitating to formally accuse these deportees due to lack of evidence. On July 19th, 1920, W.S. Churchill, the Secretary of State for War, circulated to the British Cabinet the list of Turkish deportees at Malta, suggesting 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.” The Law Officers of the Crown presented to the Cabinet a memorandum dated August 4, 2020, stating that no evidence existed about the alleged Armenian persecution, which is why the Law Officers abstained from formulating charges against the Turkish deportees. On March 16, 1921, Sir Rumbold forwarded to the Foreign Office long expected “details of charges” against each of these persons. Andrew Ryan explained that the accusations were drawn up on the principle that “sufficient presumption of guilt” to justify detention… existed against all members of the…governments of Turkey…” A typical lynch mob mentality.

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