890E.01/10–145: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Minister to Syria and Lebanon (Wadsworth)

291. Brit Embassy has informed Dept that in view of its Govt no modification of Mixed Court system in Syria should be made without consent of all interested powers. As Shone has suggested that it would be helpful if you were to receive similar instructions, Embassy has requested indication of Dept’s views on this proposal. Shone, however, has quoted Syrian Premier as saying that he himself holds strongest views on matter and that he cannot accept continuance of Mixed Courts as he considers them symbol of mandate.

Legal Adviser’s office expresses opinion2 that Syrian Mixed Court system in itself appears to be solely matter of local law which would be subject to change without need for obtaining approval of other govts but points out that it was instituted pursuant to obligations under mandate and in lieu of regime of extraterritoriality which had been previously in force in Syria and Lebanon while they formed part of Ottoman Empire. Accordingly since US presumably resumes its extraterritorial rights in Syria upon expiration of mandate Legal Adviser’s office concludes that there would be some legal justification for insistence by US that adequate measures for protection of foreign interests be retained in Syrian judicial system.

Dept hopes Syrian Govt will take no action at this time which might give foreigners ground for feeling they may not in future receive as just treatment in Syrian Courts as in past. We feel it would make particularly bad impression were Syrian Govt to abolish Mixed Courts without at least discussing matter with Govts which had capitulatory rights at time mandate was instituted.

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Before instructing you to approach Syrian Govt on this delicate subject Dept would appreciate receiving by telegraph expression of your views.

  1. Memorandum of September 18, supra.