811.203/201: Telegram

The Minister in Egypt (Kirk) to the Secretary of State

2177. My 2147, December 7, 11 a.m.45 Subsequent receipt Department’s 1200, October 6, 10 p.m., and after several conferences with legal department United States Army Headquarters, I addressed note to Prime Minister on October 27 along lines indicated my 1704, September 25, 5 [4] p.m. On November 27 Prime Minister handed me informally for study draft note he proposed to send in reply embodying modified procedure more restricted than that suggested in my note. This draft has since been under study by army headquarters and on December 6 I received letter from them asking me to attempt to persuade Egyptian authorities to change their proposed procedure in two respects as follows:

Egyptian proposal concedes to American military (Army and Navy) authorities jurisdiction over crimes and misdemeanors but reserves right when aggrieved party is civilian (a) to determine whether crime or offense was committed in or out of line of duty and (b) when out of line of duty to decide whether accused will be tried by mixed courts or handed over to American military authorities for trial. Our military authorities maintain that uniformed military personnel are always on duty and desire complete jurisdiction over such personnel regardless of whether aggrieved party is military or civilian. In order to obtain such jurisdiction they are prepared to agree to Egyptian proposal as regards American civilian personnel of the Army and Navy. Our efforts to obtain complete exemption of military personnel from Egyptian jurisdiction will be prejudiced by two recent incidents which have aroused Egyptian resentment, (a) Killing of Egyptian at Alexandria by Greek sailor absent without leave, the Greek authorities claiming that sailor was still on duty and Egyptian authorities that he was not and (b) by two deaths of Egyptians in Cairo as a result of misconduct of Australian soldiers.
Egyptian proposal provides for joint American-Egyptian [Page 94] claims commission sitting with neutral member in case of disagreement to assess damages for civilian victims of misconduct. Our military state that Secretary of War has already appointed Claims Commission for Middle East which is empowered to make settlements of $1000 or less and desire that this Commission function for claims with proviso that if Egyptian Government feels its awards are unjust it may make diplomatic representations for reconsideration and redress. Egyptian desire for joint commission is motivated by experience with British Military Claims Commission which Egyptians allege has not only been illiberal but dilatory in paying awards.

I am taking up these points with Prime Minister in the hope of obtaining his concurrence. He himself desires to do all he can for us in this matter but in view of unfortunate experiences with other military authorities in matters of jurisdiction and in view of strong stand which he took for the abolition of capitulatory regime in Egypt, he finds himself in difficult position as regards our request. It seems certain that he cannot agree to granting same rights and privileges which British enjoys. This, however, is not entirely objectional as our military authorities do not require or desire all the rights and privileges accorded to British.

While it is highly desirable that this matter be cleared up as soon as possible, no practical difficulties are being encountered in absence of agreement as our military authorities are assuming jurisdiction over our military personnel without protest from Egyptian authorities. Although there have been numerous minor but aggravating offenses by our troops, such as drunkenness, molestations and brandishing of fire arms, luckily no serious cases have arisen. I have tried to impress upon General Andrews46 importance of exemplary conduct on part of our officers and men especially toward Egyptians and necessity of prompt and adequate punishment of offenders. In view of importance of maintaining our very friendly relations with the Egyptians and the esteem in which Americans have hitherto been held in Egypt, it might be very helpful if the Department would likewise express similar views to the War Department.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Gen. Frank M. Andrews, Commanding General, United States Army Forces in the Middle East, succeeding General Maxwell in November 1942.