Journal of Civil Law Studies


Eliana Augusti


In the nineteenth century, justice in the Ottoman Empire appeared to international jurists deeply corrupted and far from the Western model. European consular jurisdictions, as in the past, solved this embarrassment in the prevalent and private interest of Western States in order to control the Mediterranean area. This perpetrated abjuration to recognize an autonomous and sovereign Ottoman administration of justice in civil or criminal cases in which foreigners were involved continued, in spite of the fact that the Porte provided excellent examples of intersection, reception and appropriation of foreign models to construct a new legal system, and to transform society. This process of “westernization” or “modernization” formally started in 1839, by the Hatt Hümayün of Gülkhâne. In order to halt the contradictions derived from the coexistence of the last (French and English) treaties of commerce of 1838 and their confirmation of privileges and consular jurisdiction with the driven effort of Ottoman juridical reforms of Tanzîmât period, in 1840 in both Turkey and Egypt, mixed traders councils composed of local and foreign traders were established. In 1840 the “commercial board” was born in Turkey and, in 1848, European Powers holding capitulary privileges negotiated the formal recognition of mixed tribunals (which were regulated in 1873 and formally inaugurated in 1875). This embarrassing situation was getting worse and accumulating contradictions when in 1856, at the Congress of Paris, the Ottoman Empire was “admitted to participate in the advantages of European Public Law and system” (art. 7 of the Treaty). Thanks to those words, the logical preamble of consular jurisdictions and their extraterritoriality (mitigated by the “monstrous” compromise of mixed tribunals), formally failed. There was a need to investigate and redefine the paradigmatic declensions of sovereignty in the relations between European Powers and the Ottoman Empire during the nineteenth century.

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