The facts, principle, issue and judgment laid down in the Lotus Case (France Vs Turkey)
The lotus case focuses on the criminal trial of France and Turkey, where the incident between these two countries took place on 2 August, 1926. The case was granted and decision made by the permanent court of international justice on 7 September, 1927.
An accident occurred between S. S. Lotus, which was a French steamer and Boz-Kourt, a Turkish bulk cargo ship in 1926 when Lotus was heading towards Constantinople. This ominous collision resulted in the sinking of Boz-Kourt and the death of several Turkish citizens. Both French and Turkish lieutenants who were on duty were captured by the Turkish authority and there were no notice given to France. French government stood against this case. Later, with the acceptance of both countries, the case was handed over to international court situated in Geneva.
The question that arose in the proceeding was that were Turkey was following the international laws while that case was on proceed against France in Turkish laws. Another question was what charges and fines can Turkey bring against French person liable for the collision while following the international criminal laws. Later, it was found that Turkey was completely in their rights while bringing charges against France. This decision from PCIJ was followed for all cases that were related to this case and these references were used only for collision cases. Lotus case also played an important role on bringing territory principle too.
Facts of Lotus Case
On the 2 August, 1926, a huge collision took place between S. S. Lotus, the French steamboat and Boz-Kourt, the Turkish ship. This accident took place at Mytilene in Greece. Boz-Kourt was the ship that was damaged more of the two and it evidently sank. S. S. Lotus gave its utmost effort to save the Turkish ship and people who are on the ship but ultimately to save the ship. Although Lotus was able to save 10 people who were on the Boz-Kourt ship but still 8 people on that ship died. Captain of Turkish ship along with those people came on Lotus.
Lotus was going to Constantinople and two days after this incident, Lieutenant Demons, a French citizen and apparently the captain of Lotus was asked for evidence on the collision and was evidently arrested along with captain of Boz-Kourt, Bey and both of them were on remand with the Turkish police for further questioning and evidence. Both captain of damaged ships were accused and had charges against them of unintentional killing which is commonly referred as man slaughtering. France was not previously informed before having their captain of a ship arrested and charged for unintentional killing. Consulate General of France was not informed.
While trial was going on in turkey according to Turkish law, Demons urged did not have the jurisdiction to run a case against him. His point was that since the accident took place on the high seas, the country had absolute authority, whose flag was aviated on the steamer and that was France. So according to both Demons and French government, Turkey did not have any right to bring the French captain, Demons under the court of law or could not held him responsible for what happened on the seas of Mytilene on 2 August.
There was not only a case against Demons, he was sentenced to jail for apparently killing those people on board for 80 days. He also had to face a fine of 22 pounds. According to French captain and other persons representing him, this decision was completely unfair. French ship helped those people to come out of that disaster alive. France saved the lives of those people. So turkey does not have any right to bring any case against France.
France determined to take this case under a new authority. They thought what was going in turkey is wrongful. France decided to bring the case in international court. The case was moved forward at The Hague in Geneva. As turkey had no problem of the case moving to international court, they also agreed on the fact. There was a special concurrence registered by the governments of France and Turkish representatives on the October 12th, 1926 that from then on, the case will be monitored in PCIJ following international law. They had to make decisions according to Article 40 of statue of article and Article 35 of the rules of the court.
France wanted to bring demons out of this case clean and wanted him to be free of all charges. But turkey was demanding that Mr. Demons was liable for what happened between Lotus and Boz-Kourt in the sea so he should be imprisoned and pay those fines. There was a dispute between both the countries and they decided to solve the dispute on the administration of Permanent Court of International Justice.
The main issue that came out of that came forward on the case between France and Turkey regarding Lotus and Boz-Kourt was whether or not turkey in their rights to have Mr. Demons liable for the collision. Another question that came forward of PCIJ was if turkey’s allegations were proved correct what charges should be brought against Mr. Demons. According to the international court the main two issues were:
Has turkey acted against the principles of international law which is contradictory to Article 15 of the convention of Lausanne of July 24th, 1923 that values situations of accommodation and métier and administration – and if so, what conventions – by establishing, regarding the accident what occurred on August 2nd, 1926, Between French steamer Lotus and the Turkish steamer Boz-Kourt on the high seas and astride the debarkation of the French ship at Constantinople and also against the captain of the Turkish steamship- joint control exercising in response of Turkish law against Mr. Demons, captain of S.S. Lotus who was on duty at the time when this accident occurred, in fallout of the Boz-Kourt having connected in the loss of life of eight Turkish sailors and travelers?
· If the reply is in positive, what financial and economic compensation should be made to Mr. Demons, contingent upon in relation to the international law, compensation should be made in these cases?
The court had to decide whether the allegation that were brought by Turkey was right or France was rightfully correct and should be made free of all charges brought against Mr. Demons.
The Judgment of this case was made in the 12th (ordinary) session of PCIJ. In this case, France was represented by Basdevant, Professor at the Faculty of Law of Paris. Turkey in this case was represented by His Excellency Mahmout Essat Bey, Minister of Justice. President was Huber, vice president Mr. Weiss, Former president Loder. Judges appointed for this case was Lord Finlay, Nyholm, Moore, De Bustamante, Altamira, Oda, Anzilotti, and Pessoa.
The judgment that was made on the September 7th, 1927 by the PCIJ in Geneva answered the two questions showed in the previous section.. First PCIJ saw that Turkey did not have the right to try the French sailor as both countries had concurrent administration over the collision that occurred. But later PCIJ found out that, although France had the jurisdiction because of their flag in the vessel, international law did not give France complete jurisdiction and control. Firstly, turkey was completely in its rights when they filed the case against France and did not act against the international law, contrary to article 15 as demanded by French government.
As the first argument made by France was void and rejected, the second question that was about the compensation due and payable to Mr. Demons was not considered by the court.
International law does not allow the jurisdiction of a country over an outsider country where the collision was happened abroad. But in this case, this rule did not apply because the collision occurred against the Turkish ship, which is considered a portion of the Turkish territory. France’s argument about their flag in the steamer in high seas also did not apply here as there was not international law that could constrain Turkish arbitration as their ship was damaged.
Lotus case gave birth to lotus principle or lotus approach. There were some exclusive principles that came out regarding lotus case about collision, territory claim etc.
1st lotus principle was jurisdiction of a country or state is related with its territory. A state or country does not have the right to bestow its jurisdiction outside own boundary except for a global accord or accepted rules provides it the right to do so. This is the first lotus principle. It is stated in the Para 45 that one country cannot work outside its own mandate unless there is an exclusive law made by international court that will be used.
The 2nd lotus principle was that a state or country has the right to use its jurisdiction inside its own territory. A state may use its jurisdiction on matters of any kind that they feel is necessary to use. A state will have the right to use its own administration inside its own yard even if there is no specific rule of international law that gives the state exclusive authority to do so. In those certain situations, the state or country will use broad amplification of judgement which are protected by the excessive rules of international law. This was stated in the Para 46 and Para 47.
From the lotus principle it was cleared that a state or country was given exclusive freedom inside its own territory. There were no rules of international law that would prevent them. In the case of Turkey, Boz-Kourt, their ship was considered their own territory. This gave Turkey the right to bring any action against France and Mr. Demons that they wanted.
Lotus case between Turkey and France gave a new dimension to international law regarding collision on high seas and territory issue. In this case it was found that although the collision took place outside the territory of both related parties, as the ship of Turkey that was damaged by Lotus, Turkey had the right to bring any claim against them. It was decided back then that for all cases regarding or having any resemblance to this case, the judgment of this case will be referred. Lotus case was used to both criminal cases and civil cases from that time. It was very important to decide what would be resided in a territory of a country or a state. In 1958, lotus principle that gave turkey that exclusive power was capsized in the Geneva Convention regarding high seas.
Customary Int’l Law, The Lotus Case (1927, France Vs Turkey, PCIJ)
File E. c., Docket XI, Judgment No. 9, 7 September 1927
PCIJ – Permanent Court of International Justice (Retrieved From http://docenti.unimc.it/docenti/andrea-caligiuri/diritto-internazionale-2008/le-fonti-del-diritto-internazionale-il-diritto-1/La-consuetudine)
PUBLICATIONS DE LA COUR PERMANENTE DE JUSTICE, INTERNATIONALE, SÉRIE A – N” 70, Le 7 septembre 1927 , RECUEIL DES ARRE’,TS , AFFAIRE DU « LOTUS 1)
Publications of the Permanent Court of International Justice, Series A – No. 10; Collection of Judgments, A.W. Sijthoff’s Publishing Company, Leyden, 1927. S.S. Lotus (Fr. v. Turk.), 1927 P.C.I.J. (ser. A) No. 10 (Sept. 7)
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