The American Commissioner on the Turkish-American Claims Commission (Nielsen) to the Secretary of State
[Received September 22.]
Sir: With reference to the Department’s telegram of June 16, 3 p.m., and my reply of June 18, 4 p.m.,30 regarding the so-called Smyrna fire cases,31 I may briefly observe that, as the Department [Page 924]doubtless understands, I telegraphed to the Department with respect to these cases on June 11th,32 because I became aware of the absence of evidence in the records and because the Turkish delegation has taken a very positive attitude with respect to non-liability of the Turkish Government.
Cases before an international tribunal are of course tried on the records in each case. It may be possible at times to combine cases. In our cursory examination of cases here, we have sometimes examined separate records together. It is possible that such action could have been usefully taken by the Committee with respect to most of the Smyrna fire cases, or that such a procedure could be employed later before an arbitrator, if a single case had been prepared with convincing evidence showing negligence on the part of the Turkish authorities in the matter of preventing destruction of property. I have noted from correspondence that claimants have been informed that they did not need to produce evidence on that point. A memorandum prepared by Mr. Anderson was explained to be one written not for the purpose of proving international liability but to furnish general information regarding cases. The Turkish delegation has insisted at all times when these cases have been mentioned that there is no liability, but I have contrived so far to keep them nominally in our calculations without revealing facts called attention to in my telegram of June 11, 4 p.m.
The Department is correct in its understanding expressed in the last paragraph of its telegram of June 16, 3 p.m., to the effect that it was not necessary to establish liability under international law in the cases that came before the Allied Commission which adjudicated claims against Turkey. The Allied Powers, having taken possession of Turkish gold and securities and ships, applied proceeds in their possession to the satisfaction of claims. The general principle of the convention made by the Powers in relation to claims was the same as that incorporated in peace treaties concluded in Paris in 1919; the defeated foe was to pay for all losses. American claims must of course be determined in the light of international law. As the Department may have observed, I have, however, made use of the facts with regard to the settlement of all the claims of nationals of the Allied Powers to indicate in a measure the extent to which the acts of Turkish authorities occasioned losses during a period of war, and to emphasize the fact that only the war claims of nationals of a Power which was not at war with Turkey remain unsettled. And I have not conceded that there can be no liability in the cases growing out of the fire.