Extraterritoriality - Turkey




Meanwhile, prompted by developing interests and problems of missionaries and trade in the Ottoman Empire, the U.S. government initiated direct contacts with Turkey. Efforts to arrange a treaty of amity and commerce were initiated in 1799, but a Turkish-American agreement that extended capitulation privileges to the United States was not concluded until 1830. Article IV of that treaty stipulated that "citizens of America, quietly pursuing their commerce, and not being charged or convicted of any crime or offense shall not be molested; and even when they have committed some offense, they shall not be arrested and put in prison, by the local authorities, but they shall be tried by their minister or consul, and punished according to their offense."

Although the treaty recognized that American plaintiffs and defendants in civil cases would be subject to Turkish law, this was not enforced. Indeed, while the United States relinquished some narrow judicial authority to Turkey with respect to land and real estate transactions in 1874, it continued to claim broad extraterritorial rights, in large measure because it considered the Turkish legal system to be unjust. As the State Department put it, "The intercourse of the Christian world with the Mohammedan world is not founded upon the principle of the law of nations," because "International Law, as professed by the civilized ideas subsisting between them [is] based upon a common origin, and an almost identical religious faith." With the outbreak of World War I, Turkey was the first country to take advantage of the conflict by declaring its intention to rid itself of the capitulatory regime. In September 1914 the Turks, asserting that the capitulatory rights were "in complete opposition to the juridical rules of the century and to the principle of national sovereignty," proclaimed that Turkey's relations with all states would be based on the "general principles of international law" after Turkey abrogated the capitulatory agreements, effective 1 October 1914. The United States promptly denied Turkey's right to abolish the capitulations unilaterally, claiming that such action could be taken only by agreement among all the nations concerned. Nevertheless, Turkey made it clear that it considered the capitulations dead.

Turkey experienced dramatic social, political, and legal changes in the early twentieth century. Kemal Ataturk's nationalist revival and secularization of Turkey helped transform the legal system by granting non-Muslims more equal legal status with Muslims. With these reforms, extraterritoriality did not seem necessary to protect the legal rights of Americans in Turkey. Therefore, the United States was willing to renounce extraterritoriality, Ambassador Joseph Grew informed Turkish foreign minister Tevfik Aras in 1931.

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