381.8121 El 6/—

The Acting Secretary of State to the Ambassador in France (Wallace)

No. 713

Sir: The Department sends you herewith a copy of despatch No. 148, of July 7 [19], 1920,15 from the American Agent and Consul General at Tangier, Morocco, concerning the arrest of the American Semsar, Allal Weld El Hadj Boaza Ben El-Mamoon, and his subsequent trial and condemnation by a French Court Martial in Morocco. There are also enclosed copies of the correspondence quoted in this despatch.15

You are instructed to communicate with the French Minister of Foreign Affairs substantially as follows:

Upon instructions from my Government, I have the honor to bring to Your Excellency’s attention the circumstances connected with the arrest, in violation of treaty rights, of the American Semsar (Protégé) Allal Weld El-Hadj Boaza Ben El-Mamoon, and his subsequent trial and condemnation by Court Martial, carried out by the French authorities in Morocco in spite of the repeated official protests of the American Agent and Consul General at Tangier.

Allal Ben El-Mamoon, according to information furnished by Mr. Blake, the American Agent and Consul General at Tangier, received his American protection under the terms of the Madrid Convention of 1880,16 and his name was first incorporated in the list of American protégés in the year 1914, upon the request of Mr. Joseph E. Cazes, an American citizen and a large exporter of cattle in Morocco. He, Allal, was the local buying agent of Mr. Cazes in the region of the Gharb. After the usual independent investigations by the French authorities, his name was accepted by them without objection, and American jurisdiction of his person and property was thereby recognized by the French authorities.

For some years this American protégé has occupied jointly with the community of the Village of Oulad Mamoon, in the Gharb, a tract of land which he says was purchased long ago by his father and is owned by himself and the community as joint tenants. The land is, however, claimed by a third party, and the litigation relating thereto appears to have been pending over a period of several years, the case having been heard in Tangier and by different [Page 737] Kadis of the Gharb. The American protégé affirms that in the course of the litigation no judgment has ever been rendered against him or his community; that, on the contrary, when, prior to 1914, he was under French protection, the case was repeatedly decided in their favor; that a document purporting to be a judgment against them, alleged to exist in the hands of his (Allal’s) adversaries, is a fraudulent document issued by a Kadi who was removed by the French authorities and sentenced to imprisonment and hard labor; and that the military authorities who ruled the region of the Gharb prior to the establishment of the Civil Control repeatedly refused to give any countenance to the document or to execute it.

Early in December, 1919, an officer of the local civil authorities came to the Village of Oulad Mamoon and informed the community that their adversaries had produced a judgment rendered against them and demanded its enforcement. The officer ordered them forthwith to vacate the property, which, it was said, had been leased to a certain Mr. Stevens and his partner, Madame Ducamp. The community refused to comply with the order, and the officer arrested them all, including the American protégé, in spite of the latter’s protest and his exhibition of his certificate of American protection. They were all thrown into prison.

After several days’ incarceration, Allal Ben El-Mamoon was released on the orders of the French Residency-General at Rabat, issued at the instance of Mr. El-Khazen, of the American Agency and Consulate-General at Tangier, who was at the time on an official mission in the French Protectorate. Mr. El-Khazen, upon the instructions of Mr. Blake, made it clear that the American protection of Allal Ben El-Mamoon must by no means be construed to be extended to the entire community of the Village of Oulad Mamoon, and he agreed with the Residency-General that the abode of the American protégé and the portion of the litigious property actually occupied by him personally should be respected and left in his possession until the alleged judgment invoked by his adversaries had been presented to Mr. Blake for execution in conformity with the stipulations of the treaties.

Under date of January 27, 1920, the Resident General at Rabat, in a telegram to the American Agent and Consul General at Tangier, stated that he was informed that on the previous day Allal Ben El-Mamoon had forcibly expelled the adversaries of his community who had been placed in possession of the litigious property, except that portion thereof held by Allal Ben El-Mamoon, and that he had furthermore assembled the tribe of Oulad M’rara, excited them to revolt, and, in the course of the disturbance, seized or dispersed the herds of his adversaries, carried out a veritable pillage, and threatened [Page 738] Europeans with a revolver. The Resident General said further that in view of the gravity and the nature of the occurrences, which disturbed public order, he had ordered the arrest of Allal Ben El-Mamoon.

Upon the receipt of this telegram, Mr. Blake, considering the gravity of the charges, gave instructions to Mr. El-Khazen to offer to cooperate with the Residency-General in a joint investigation of the facts. Mr. El-Khazen was at the same time instructed to request the surrender of the American Semsar to the American consular authorities, the only judicial authorities recognized by the treaties and by the Maghzen as competent to judge American ressortissants, and further to convey assurances to the Resident General that, if Allal Ben El-Mamoon were found guilty of the charges brought against him, Mr. Blake would request the Government of the United States to cancel his protection and authorize his delivery to the Maghzen authorities to be dealt with as they should think fit.

Mr. Blake’s offer of cooperation with the Residency General and his request for the surrender of the American Semsar to American consular jurisdiction were apparently ignored. The Resident General, in his letter of February 17, 1920, communicated the result of his separate inquiry and stated that he had ordered the confinement of Allal Ben El-Mamoon in the military prison at Rabat. At the same time he informed the American Agent and Consul General that, as General Commander in Chief of the Corps of Occupation, and in conformity with an order of August 2, 1914, instituting martial law in Morocco, he had authorized the trial of the American protégé by a French court martial. In a later communication, answering a letter from Mr. Blake, dated April 13, 1920, the Resident General expressly declined to adopt the renewed suggestion of a joint inquiry into the facts of Allal Ben El-Mamoon’s case. The trial by court martial proceeded, and on May 20, 1920, the Council of War of the Rabat Subdivision pronounced judgment, declaring the American protégé guilty of banded pillage with open force (extenuating circumstances admitted) and condemning him to a penalty of three years’ imprisonment.

Upon being informed of the sentence pronounced upon the American protégé, the American Agent and Consul General at Tangier immediately addressed to the Resident General at Rabat a formal protest against the violation, in this case, of American treaty rights which had never before been questioned. Referring to the order of August 2, 1914, which had been invoked against Allal Ben El-Mamoon by the Resident General, he reiterated the statement which he had made in his letter of April 13, 1920, that, although the French authorities in Morocco had requested the consent of at least one foreign government, namely the British Government, to the application of this order [Page 739] to its subjects and protégés in Morocco, no similar request had ever been addressed to the American government. He concluded with a request for the immediate release of Allal Ben El-Mamoon and his surrender to the American judicial authorities in Morocco.

The representations of the American Agent and Consul General at Tangier having so far failed to effect their purpose, my Government directs me to say to you that it fully endorses the position taken by the American Agent and Consul General at Tangier in this case, and that it has learned with surprise of the refusal of the French Resident General at Rabat to comply with Mr. Blake’s request for the release of the American protégé, Allal Ben El-Mamoon, and his surrender to the American Consular authorities for appropriate proceedings in a Consular Court of the United States.

The proclamation of martial law by the French authorities of the Protectorate cannot, in the absence of an agreement to that effect with the Government of the United States, confer upon French military tribunals jurisdiction over American protégés, who, under the treaties in force and the existing usages, are liable to judicial proceedings only in the American Consular Courts, representing in Morocco not the dignity of His Shereefian; Majesty but the sovereign authority of the United States. Relying upon the well-known respect of the French Government for the sanctity of treaties, my Government confidently expects that, upon consideration of the full account, herewith given, of the violation of American treaty rights, by the French authorities of the Protectorate, the French Government will hasten to correct the error of those authorities, and that, while directing the delivery of the American protégé, Allal Ben El-Mamoon, to the American consular authorities for appropriate proceedings in an American Consular Court, it will offer suitable amends to the victim, of the ill-judged action of its subordinates.

My Government has provided me with copies of the correspondence exchanged between the French Resident General at Rabat and the American Agent and Consul General at Tangier, and, if Your Excellency should care to examine these copies, I shall be pleased to transmit them to you.

I am [etc.]

Norman H. Davis
  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Foreign Relations, 1880, p. 917.