The Secretary of State to the Minister in Ethiopia (Southard)

No. 230

Sir: Reference is made to your despatch No. 852 of November 9, 1931,3 regarding the organization and reform of the judiciary in Ethiopia, and to previous despatches on the same subject.

The unsatisfactory functioning of the Special Court at Addis Ababa, before which are tried certain cases between foreigners and Ethiopians, has for some time been a source of concern to the Department. Your despatch under reference indicates that the situation is even more unsatisfactory than the Department had realized and appears clearly to establish the necessity of prompt remedial action to insure the adequate judicial protection of the persons and property of American nationals in cases which arise between them and Ethiopian subjects.

The Department desires, therefore, that you seek an audience with the Emperor at an early date and express to him the concern with which this Government regards the unsatisfactory functioning of the Special Court and its apprehension that a continuance of the present unsatisfactory conditions may result in incidents tending to embarrass the relations of the two Governments.

You should emphasize that the Government of the United States is animated by the friendliest feelings for the Government of His [Page 661] Imperial Majesty and his people, referring in this connection particularly to the sympathetic attitude which the American Government adopted toward the recent fiscal measures of the Ethiopian Government.4 You should add that this Government’s concern over the matter of judicial reform in Ethiopia is not confined to the protection of American nationals and their interests in that country but is motivated also by a sincere desire that success may attend His Majesty’s present endeavors to modernize and improve the judicial administration of the country and that thereby not only American and other nationals may benefit but that the Ethiopians themselves may advance along the road of progress marked out for them by their enlightened sovereign.

You should express the confidence of this Government that His Imperial Majesty will appreciate the importance and desirability of a prompt reorganization of the Special Court at Addis Ababa and of the rules of its procedure in order that it may function as an efficient and impartial tribunal in fulfillment of the international obligation of the Ethiopian Government to afford adequate facilities for the proper determination of judicial matters involving Ethiopian subjects and American nationals.

Finally, you may, in your discretion, either at the proposed audience or on some other appropriate occasion, intimate discreetly but clearly to the Emperor that this Government cannot continue indefinitely to subject its nationals to the jurisdiction of a tribunal so clearly inadequate as the Special Court at Addis Ababa.

The Department will await with interest the receipt of a prompt report setting forth the results of your representations in this matter.

Very truly yours,

For the Secretary of State:
James Grafton Rogers
  1. Not printed.
  2. The reference is to the refusal of the United States to join Great Britain, France, and Italy in protesting against an Ethiopian tax law of March 30, 1931, which the protesting powers held infringed upon the rights enjoyed by foreigners under the Franco-Ethiopian treaty of 1908. (884.512 Consuraption/7-52)