Indictment of the Turkish Military Tribunal


"The massacre and destruction of the Armenians were the result of the decision-making by the Central Committee of Ittihad ve Terakki

[The calamity befalling the Armenians] was not due to a particular incident; nor was it limited to a particular locality. [Rather] it was organized by a unanimously acting central body comprising the above mentioned persons"

Below is an excerpt from an article by Prof. Vahakn N. Dadrian that examines the official proceedings of the court martial conducted by the Ottoman Turkish government in 1919 against the perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide. The excerpt presents Dadrian's translation of the most significant portions of the tribunal's indictment.


I. The Conditions of the Court Martial

1)Its Central Purpose

Page 5: The subject of this proceeding is the investigation of the matter [relating to] the tragedy that was brought about in connection with the Armenian deportations.

Page 8: [In line with] the recent decree concerning the formation and function of this Court Martial, the investigation of the matter of massacres and profiteering [emerges] as the principal task of this Court.

2)The Theft of Important and Incriminating Documents

Page is clear that an important part of the loose papers [belonging to the Special Organization] as well as those of the Central Committee, along with its registers, were stolen. According to the contents of the memo from the illustrious Interior Ministry, even former Director of Public Security Mr. Aziz did not, after he resigned his post, return the files containing important data and correspondence which he had obtained from the office prior to the resignation of Mr. Talat.

3)The Elements of Prosecuratorial Evidence

Page 4:...the investigative papers compiled [through pre-trial] examinations and the attached, detailed indictment [framed] by the Procuror-General of the Court Martial...

Page 5: [We shall] adduce evidence, proofs, depositions, and valid documents compiled by way of a careful and revelatory [pre-trial] investigation.

Page 7:...the deposition of Vehip an accusatory document and a comprehensive proof...

Page 8: The assertions [contained] in the information...serve as an instrument of evidence adequate to document [the charges relating to] the Ankara deportations.

Page 8: [On the basis of] the production to a sufficient degree of the above cited evidence and proofs pertaining to the daring crimes [of the suspects cited] in the preceding [indictment]...

4)On the Judicial Competence of the Court Martial

Page 8: Those among the aforementioned [defendants] who [served] as ministers, put forward [the claim] of [official] duties as they denied [the charges] through statements [they made during the interrogatories]. They [thus] are bringing up for consideration for their defense [the claim that] the [proper] venue for the investigations and trials is not the Court Martial but the High Court, to be constituted in conformity with constitutional provisions.

Page 8: It is superfluous to explain, however, that [the application of] Article 92, on which they are relying, is restricted to those criminal deeds of the ministers or, collectively, of the Cabinet, involving political actions. According to the provisions of Article 33 of the above mentioned [constitutional] law, the ministers [enjoy] no privilege whatsoever for ordinary crimes they personally committed, or [when they] are accessories [to these crimes].

Page 8: Given the facts [that, a:] the venue for this category of crimes is ordinary courts; [that, b:] wherever a state of martial law is in force civil and judicial laws are entirely muted, with jurisdiction devolving upon Courts Martial, as stipulated by the respective law; [that, c:] pursuant to the recent decree, respecting the formation and functions of this Court Martial, [the Tribunal] decided to reject the inadmissible objection [of the defendants pleading official duties].

5)The Proposed Sets of Penal Codes

Page 8: In consideration of the misdeeds warranting retributive punishment for [defendants] Dr. Behaeddin Sakir, Dr. Nazim, Messrs. Atif, Riza, Cevat, Aziz, and 'Pasha' Messrs. Enver, Cemal and Talat, who were principal co-perpetrators, [it is demanded that they be subjected to the provisions of] the first paragraph of Article 45 and of Article 170 of the Penal Code.

Page 8: Though not principal co-perpetrators themselves, Messrs. Mithat Sükrü, Dr. Rusuhi, Kücük Talat, Ziya Gökalp, Kemal, and Sait Halim Pasa, Ahmet Nesimi, Sükrü, Ibrahim and Halil [emerge as] definite accessories since they knowingly supported the accused in their crimes. They [are therefore subject to the provisions of] paragraph two of Article 45 of the above cited code.

II. The Conspiratorial and Paramount Role of Ittihad

1)The Dual Character and Functions of the Party or Cemiyet

Page 4: The Ittihad ve Terakki Cemiyet embraced two mutually opposed characters [consisting] on the one hand of an external and public [facade] that was based on [a party] program and internal regulations, and on the other of a concealed and private [modus operandi covering] oral and secret instructions.

Page 5:...the implementation and execution in a secret fashion of the intent of the leadership of Ittihad ve Terakki Cemiyet...

Page 5:...the criminal actions and operations [represented a mission] with which the secret network [of the Special Organization] was the leadership of Ittihad ve Terakki...

Page 5: [ order to frame the guidelines for the criminal actions] and [to carry out] this kind of secret actions.

Page 5: The organization and execution of the Armenian tragedy [associated with] the Armenian deportations was directed and ensured through oral and secret instructions and orders.

Page 6: The fact that this telegram was among fugitive Mr. Talat's papers [compiled] by [the Inquiry Commission] of the Fifth Committee of the Chamber of Deputies, accents the important character of the cipher telegram [sent by Talat to] the above mentioned Zor district commissioner Ali Suat, and [accents the significance] of its secret character and intent as well as of [the attached instruction] to destroy it.

2)Ittihad's Secret Designs Propelling Turkey's Entry Into the War

Page 4: By recourse to a number of vile tricks and deceitful means [they] secured [Turkey's] entry into the First World War, thereby creating for the people an accomplished fact [and the opportunity] to carry out their secret goals...

Page 4:...taking advantage of the [opportunity of the] general war with which Europe was preoccupied...

3)The Links Between Ittihad's Top Leadership and the Special Organization

Page 6:...even the telegram...illustrates the relationship and ties between the Special Organization and Cemiyet.

Page 6: Mr. Resneli Nazim's presence in Mamuretulaziz (Harput) at that time as Ittihad ve Terakki's Inspector confirms his involvement in the destructive operations of the Special Organization and his ties to the Cemiyet.

4)The Pivotal Role of the Responsible Secretaries, Delegates and Inspectors

Page 5: [The perpetrators which] the Committee deployed in the provinces and the delegates of Ittihad ve Terakki [joined hands in committing] massacres...

Page 6: The deportations [from Bolu] were inspired [among others] by the exertions of [Bursa Responsible Secretary Doctor] Mr. Mithat.

Page 6:...the letter, signed 'Balikesir's Ittihad ve Terakki Inspector Musa'...and turned over to Dr. Nazim...corroborates this [fact].

Page 6: The telegram sent to the Central Committee of Ittihad ve Terakki and [thence] forwarded, bore the signature of Samsun Responsible Secretary Rüstü...

Page 7:...regarding the manner if massacre of some of the deportees by Kurd Alo's brigands organized through Çankiri Responsible Secretary Mr. Cemal Oguz...

Page 7: The level of interference by Ankara's Ittihad ve Terakki Responsible Secretary Mr. Necati...

Page a memo [which Deputy O. Ihsan] gave Talat during a meeting of the parliamentary group of Ittihad ve Terakki, he recounted the calamity and atrocities being perpetrated against the Armenians, requesting an investigation of all the responsible secretaries; Talat brushed [the memo] aside after scratching on it the notation 'keep it'.

Page 7:...the statement of Governor Resat Pasa and the appended copies of the telegram explaining the deportations in Kastamanou, [showing] his being ignored despite his having written to the Ministry about the crimes and misdeeds of the local Responsible Secretary Hasan Fehmi...

Page 8:...and [the involvement of the region's] Mr. Responsible Secretary serve as an instrument of evidence adequate to document [the changes].

Page 8:...the statement on Trabzon Responsible Secretary Mr. Nail about the atrocities and perpetrators of Trabzon...

III. The Factors of Decision Making

1)The Supreme Instance of the Central Committee in Premeditation

Page 7: The massacre and destruction of the Armenians were the result of the decision-making by the Central Committee of Ittihad ve Terakki.

Page 8: This [Armenian] question has been determined upon following extensive and profound deliberations...

2)On Deflection and Cover-up

Page 6: At the start of the mobilization the idea was broadcast that these brigands were to get involved in war duties. An effort was made in this sense to persuade the well-intentioned and gullible people concerned.

Page 6: The pertinent proofs, documents and other [pieces of] evidence in their configuration clearly demonstrate that [these brigands] subsequently were employed for the massacre and destruction of the convoys subjected to deportation.

Page 6: [The following ciphers attest to the fact that] the massacres took place under the orders and with the knowledge of Messrs. Talat, Cemal, and Enver. The one addressed to the governors of Diyarbekir and Mamuretulaziz and the district commissioners of Urfa and Zor [involves] Mr. Talat's July 21, 1915 cipher [ordering] the burying of the dead lying along the roads, prohibiting their being cast into valleys, rivers, and lakes, and [insisting on] the burning of the effects abandoned [by the dead]. [The other concerns] Fourth Army Commander Mr. Cemal's July 1, 1915 telegram sent to the governor of Diyarbekir, marked 'urgent' and 'eyes only'. In it, it is declared that it is necessary to bury on the spot the corpses dragged southwards by the Euphrates, at the same time maintaining that they probably are the corpses of Armenians killed as a result of their rebellious acts and that no corpse should be left lying around. In response, [the following was communicated to] the aforementioned Mr. Cemal in a July 3, 1915 cipher telegram bearing the sign 'eyes only': 'Euphrates is very tenuously related to our province. It is likely that the corpses dragged [by the river] originate from the areas of Erzurum, Mamuretulaziz. The dead resulting from acts of rebellion are either thrown into abandoned and deep caverns or are, in accordance with the prevailing method of treatment, incinerated; they are very seldom buried'.

Page 7:...the presence by the roads of too many corpses, despite recent notification, is denounced in the order issued through a cipher, [with the observation that] the damage [to us implicit in such a condition] does not need an explanation and, as communicated by the illustrious Interior Ministry, the sluggish individuals will be severely punished. The burial in a careful fashion of all the corpses [found] within the boundaries [is to be carried out].

Page 7:...the extensive and especially very significant statement of Colonel Halil Recayi [covers] the actions and conduct during the Ankara deportations of former police chief Mr. Behaeddin from Manastir...When Mr. Behaeddin was turned over to the court martial and recourse to legal action against him was being taken, he was recalled to Istanbul and as a result of the Interior Ministry's request the investigative papers, which were being held back, were procured and recovered by the War Ministry; the aforementioned [Behaeddin] was [thus] spared prosecution.

3)The Sweeping Nature of the Anti-Armenian Scheme

Page 5: [The calamity befalling the Armenians] was not due to a particular incident; nor was it limited to a particular locality. [Rather] it was organized by a unanimously acting central body comprising the above mentioned persons.

Page 6: [In consideration of the fact] that a location such as Bolu [Kastamonu province, 72 miles inland on the Istanbul-Izmit-Adapazar-Ankara main road] did not count as a war zone explains the deportations as having resulted from the goals and wishes of the Cemiyet; they were neither a measure [borne out by a] military necessity, nor a punitive, disciplinary measure.

Page 7:...the method of massacre is but part of the actions and activities on the part of the representatives of Cemiyet involving what appears to be acts subsidiary to a centrally directed system [of operations].

4)The Penchant for a Final Solution

Page 4: [They] fancied that [they] could solve once and for all unresolved problems and troublesome conflicts through a display of severity towards everyone and through the recourse to terror in every direction.

Page 8: [The claim that] this undertaking will be solving the Eastern question...

IV. The Instruments of Extermination

1)The Command and Control of the Special Organization

Page 4: [Among] the officials of the Special Organization were Central Committee members Messrs. Dr. Behaeddin Sakir, Dr. Nazim, Atif and Riza; Messrs. Aziz, former Director of Public Security, and Military Governor [of Istanbul] Cevat were part of the executive directorate [of that Special Organization].

Page 5: Messrs. Aziz, former Public Security Chief, Atif, Central Committee member, and Dr. Nazim [functioned] in fact like a General Staff within a committee which they created under the name of Special Organization.

Page 5:...Mr. Behaeddin Sakir, headquartered at Erzurum, took charge of the command of the forces operating in the eastern provinces...

Page 5: The executive direction [of the Special Organization] was in the hands of Central Committee members Messrs. Dr. Nazim, Behaeddin Sakir, Atif, Riza and former Director of Public Security Aziz.

Page 7:...the çete formations organized by Mr. Behaeddin Sakir...

2)The Çetes and the Gendarmes Comprising the Special Organization

Page 6: The July 15, 1915 cipher telegram of Governor Mr. Tahsin attesting to the criminal attacks and atrocities against the Armenians in the localities of Erzurum province by the Special Organization and by some gendarmes attached to it.

Page 6: The brigands which sprang up suddenly under the label 'Special Organization'...

Page 6:...confirms [the fact that] in its involvement with the task of destruction the Special Organization [maintained] ties with the Cemiyet.

Page 7:...[as to how] they were being subjected to massacre and plunder by the members of the çete units organized by Mr. Behaeddin Sakir.

3)The Engagement and Employment of Convicts for Massacre Duty

Page 5:...for this purpose [Messrs. Halil, Nazim, Atif, Aziz] assembled and provided brigand chiefs and emptied the prisons...

Page 5: [The powerful leaders of the Cemiyet] released from the prisons gangs of criminals. In order to frame the guidelines for the latters' criminal actions and provide them with the [necessary] orders and instructions [and ensure the secrecy of the mission, Ittihad] created and set up in Istanbul a Committee called Special Organization.

Page 6:...criminals, outlaws associated with the Special Organization...

Page 7:...the initiation of an investigation against Director General of Prisons Mr. Ibrahim [relative to the calamity and atrocities inflicted upon the Armenians].

Page 7:...the procurement, direction and employment in the Third Army zone of butchers of humans...consorting gallowsbirds...gendarmes with bloodstained eyes and with hands soiled in blood...

4)The References to Artvin

Page 5:...the single leaf document attached to this indictment demonstrates that a cipher telegram, bearing the signature of A. Cevat, lets it be known that the matter 'will personally be taken care of by Mr. Behaeddin Sakir in Artvin'.

Page 8: In the No. 69 secret response recorded on the same page of the single leaf document found in the file of the Special Organization it says: 'Since there is nothing left for you to do, proceed to Trabzon to assume a duty which is more important than the Artvin affair'.

V. Methods of Extermination

1)Types of Crimes and Misdeeds

a) Profiteering and self-enrichment

Page 4:...with an iron hand and by way of abuse of authority the powerful leaders of the Cemiyet endeavored to accumulate [personal] wealth and fortunes...

Page 6: A lieutenant named Faik took possession of Arabian's four daughters and Lieutenant Mr. Kâmil stole 1863 T Pounds, 35 loads of furniture, and lots of jewelry. These scandals involving women and money are most shameful and indecent.

Page Central Committee member Mr. Memduh Sevket and his brother Mr. Refet at that time went to Ankara and enriched themselves...

b) Mass drownings at the Black Sea

Page 7:...[How] the Armenians were being put on board of caiques and drowned on the shores of the Black Sea.

c) Murder, plunder and assorted crimes

Page 6:...the massacre and destruction of the convoys subjected to deportation...

Page 6:...the massacres...

Page 7: The massacre and destruction of the Armenians and the looting and plunder of their properties...

Page 8:...massacre and profiteering...

Page 5:...murder of people, plunder of goods and money, gutting houses and corpses, rape, and the indulging in all sorts of tortures and shameful acts.

2)Explicit Order for and Execution of Massacres

Page 6:...the contents of the cipher telegram: 'Are the Armenians, who are being dispatched from there, being liquidated? Are those harmful persons, whom you inform us you are exiling and banishing, being exterminated, or are they being merely dispatched and exiled? Answer explicitly...'

Page 6:...upon his telling Zor district commissioner Mr. Zeki, 'There is talk that you annihilated 10,000 Armenians,' [he received from] Mr. Zeki the [following] reply: 'You are impugning my honor. I disdain the 10,000 figure; come on, raise it.'

3)The Betrayal of Islam

Page 6:...with revulsion did the Muslims of Kastamonu mention and views the events that took place outside their region. So much so that one day the legal interpreter of Islam, the sheiks and notables, collectively pleaded with Governor Resit Pasa [with the words]: 'We heard that the Armenians of the neighboring provinces, comprising entire families, including children, are, as if being sent on to the slaughterhouse, driven to the mountaintops and massacred. We do not like anything like that to happen in our region as we are afraid of divine wrath. Infidelity is no threat to government but no government can maintain itself through oppression and cruelty. Help, please. Let there be no such mistreatment in our province...' [Upon receiving assurances,] they left with joyful tears.

Page 7:...despite the Islamic injunction to refrain from doing, under threat and intimidation, things that are forbidden...

Page 7: [One has to recognize] under what [conditions of] terror and threat the Muslims of these places failed [to render help]. A sense of justice and sound reasoning should be enough [for anyone] to be persuaded that the local Muslim people and the petty officials cannot be chided for the tragedy [befalling the Armenians].

VI. The Complicity of Civilian and Military Authorities

1)The Involvement of the Interior Ministry

Page 5:...Mr...,who was sent to Aleppo brought to the Court's attention that the intent of the deportations was destruction [as admitted to him by A. Nuri with the words], 'I contacted Mr. Talat and personally received the orders of extermination.'

Page 6:...indicates that the Interior Ministry and the Cemiyet were involved in the handling of these brigands.

Page 7:...with the notation 'keep it', Mr. Talat shelved the report [on the atrocities].

Page 8: The deciphered contents of a wire sent by Mr. Behaeddin Sakir is marked: 'To the Central Committee through the intermediary of Interior Minister Talat Bey'...

Page 8: [There is a statement about] former Ankara governor Mr. Mazhar being dismissed for having refused to carry out the proposal relative to the deportation and destruction [of the Armenians], and [about] two country executives who were annihilated for objecting to the atrocities and executions perpetrated against the Arabs and to the deportations initiated by the governor of the Diyarbekir.

2)The links between the Ottoman military and the special Organization

Page 5: The No. 59 memo is proof that Halil Pasa, fugitive Mr. Enver's uncle, was involved in the special Organization while serving as military governor [of Istanbul]. This is evidenced by No. 67 telegram which the above mentioned Mr. Halil sent to the district governorship of Izmit.

Page 5: Aforementioned Mr. Halil's November 16, 1914 dated memo No. 68 to the directorate of the War Office shows that explosives were supplied to the Special Organization.

Page 5: From among the executive committee of secret network...of the Special organization... Messrs. Aziz, Atif, Nazim were operationally active in Istanbul and the decisions they adopted were approved and implemented by Military Governor Cevat.

Page 5:...underneath decision No. 150 is the approval and signature of Cevat with the notations 'O.K'; this decision was relayed as an order through the cipher telegram bearing the name 'A. Cevat'.

Page 5: Even Military Governor Mr. Cevat having approved and fulfilled the implementation of the decisions adopted by them [ the members of the special Organization Directorate], provided large sums of money to the people engaged by [these members], dispatching and sending them to various regions. To such leaders as Dr. Behaeddine Sakir, he gave code keys putting at their disposal automobiles and supplying them with ample cash, and equipping them with explosives.

Page 7: The telegram bearing the signature of Third Army Commander Mahmut Kamil [proclaims]: 'any Muslim who protects an Armenian will be hanged in front of his house which will also be burned down. If the culprit is an official he will be dismissed and court-martialed. If those who deem it worthwhile to provide protection are military officials they will be severed from the military and will be handed over to the above mentioned Court Martial to be tried before it'.

3)The Application of Sanctions to Ensure Compliance With Orders

Page 5:...some docile and submissive officials [were involved in the atrocities].

Page 7: High ranking government officials submitted to the orders and directives of Dr. Behaeddin Sakir.

Page 7: According to the results of the investigation [by this court], those who vehemently repudiated the above-cited tragedy and assumed the posture of non-participants were regarded as traitors of the fatherland whereas actively [involved] elements such as Behaeddin enjoyed much protection and assistance.

Page 7:...being informed [that] officials acting in a sluggish manner in this matter will be severely punished.

Page 8: In response to Army Commander Mr. Cemal's inquiry, directed to Mr. Talat, as [to the reasons for] the removal of former Konya Governor Celal [from his post of Aleppo governor], it was communicated that it [the removal] resulted from a divergence in viewpoints on the Armenian question between [Celal on the one hand] and the central government [on the other].

Page 8:...the statement about former Ankara Governor Mr. Mazhar being dismissed for having refused to carry out the proposal and... about two country executives who were annihilated [for similar reasons].

VII. The Ploy of "Relocation" as Evidenced in the Destruction of Survivors in the Desert

Page 5: Mr. Abdulahad Nuri who was sent to Aleppo [stated that] the deportations meant annihilation, [adding] 'I have contacted Mr. Talat and received personally the orders of annihilation'.

Page 6: Upon being told that 'There is talk that you annihilated 10,000 Armenians', Sahzeki replied: 'You are impugning my honor. I disdain the 10,000 figure, come on, raise it'.

Page 8: It was reported that the removal [form his post as governor of] Aleppo [province] of Mr. Celal was due to an incompatibility between his viewpoint and that of the central government.

VIII. Two Statistical Figures on Deported Armenians

1)From Ankara Province

Page 6:...the total of the Armenians deported from Ankara province amounted to sixty-one thousand...

2)From Diyarbekir Province

Page 7: the number of Armenians sent off from Diyarbekir amounted to hundred twenty thousand.

Vahakn N. Dadrian, "A Textual Analysis of the Key Indictment of the Turkish Military Tribunal Investigating the Armenian Genocide,"Journal of Political and Military Sociology, 22 (1994, 1), pp. 133-172.