On August 2nd, 1926 a French mail steamer Lotus on its way to Constantinople, has collided with a Turkish collier Boz-Kourt, just north of Cape Sigri. As a result, the Boz-Kourt sank and eight Turkish national perished with the ship. During the collision Lieutenant M. Demons was the officer on watch of the Lotus, while the Boz-Kourt was navigated by its captain Hassan Bey. Hassan Bey was among the ten survivors rescued by the Lotus. On August 5th, two days following their arrival in Constantinople, the Turkish government has requested M. Demons to give evidence, and then placed him along with Hassan Bey under arrest on charges of involuntary manslaughter. On September 15th the Criminal Court of Stamboul, M. Demons was sentenced to eighty days in prison, and Hassan Bey, was sentenced to a slightly harsher punishment. It is important to note that only the “fact of the Turkish Courts exercising criminal jurisdiction” was being challenged. The prosecution held that due to the casualties involved, criminal proceedings were mandatory but recognized no criminal intention in either of the officers resulting in the prosecution for involuntary manslaughter. From the opposing side the argument was that a breach of navigation regulations, is an exclusive authority of the state who’s flag is flown by the vessel.
The legal code pursued by the Turkish prosecution was Article 6 of the Turkish Penal Code which read:
“ Any foreigner who… commits an offence abroad to the prejudice of Turkey or of a Turkish subject… shall be punished in accordance with the Turkish Penal Code provided that he is arrested in Turkey…”
which according to their claim, did not contradict any of the principles of international law. It was also noted that Article 15 of the Convention of Lausanne delimits the parties’ jurisdiction as follows:
“ all questions of jurisdiction shall, as between Turkey and the other contracting Powers, be decided in accordance with the principles of international...