HC Deb 12 February 1877 vol 232 cc167-72

asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, with reference to Lord Derby's Despatch of the 21st September last, about the outrages recently committed on the Christian population of Bulgaria, in which Despatch Her Majesty's Ambassador at Constantinople is instructed, after demanding an audience of the Sultan, to "call for reparation and justice in the name of the Queen and of Her Majesty's Government," and to urge that the "rebuilding of the houses and churches should be begun at once," and "necessary assistance given for the restoration" of the native industries, and above all to "point out that it is a matter of absolute necessity that the 80 women should be found and restored to their families;" and in which Despatch His Excellency is further instructed at the same audience "to mention by name Shefket Pasha, Hafiz Pasha, Tossoun Bey, Achmet Aga, and the other officials" whose conduct had been de- nounced in Mr. Baring's Report, and to urge "that striking examples should be made on the spot of those who have connived at or taken part in the atrocities," and that "the persons who have been decorated or promoted under a false impression of their conduct should be tried and degraded where this has not been done already," What steps have been taken by the Turkish Government to comply with the demands of Her Majesty' s Government?


The hon. and learned Member asks me, what steps have been taken to comply with the demands made by Her Majesty's Government in the despatch of Lord Derby, which is contained in the Papers issued, of the 21st September last? Now, Sir, as nearly all the Papers are in the Blue Books which are before the House, I am afraid it would be rather difficult for me to give a satisfactory answer to my hon. and learned Friend without going into considerable length, and I do not suppose that the House would desire me to quote a great number of despatches which relate to the subject. They are all before the House, so far as they relate to matters which have occurred down to the date of the despatches in the Blue Books. At the same time I dare say it might be satisfactory to the House if I make a short statement which will show exactly what has been done since the date of the despatch which my hon. and learned Friend has alluded to. In the first place, I dare say hon. and learned Members who have read the Blue Book will see that a despatch was addressed by Lord Derby to Lord Salisbury on the 24th November last—at the time when at Constantinople—and there are two or three paragraphs in that despatch which, with the permission of the House, I will read. They will be found about the middle of that despatch.— It is with regret that Her Majesty's Government have learnt from the subsequent reports of Mr. Baring and Her Majesty's Consular officers, how little has been done to give effect to these assurances of the Sultan. That refers to the assurances given by the Sultan at the time the despatch of the 21st of September was read to him by Sir Henry Elliot. Shefket Pacha has been retained in posts of honour, and although Achmet Aga has been at last arrested, his son, who is accused of being equally culpable, has been allowed to escape, and is in concealment among the Mussulmans. The Turkish authorities have only sent a sum of £7,000 for the rebuilding and repair of the villages, although the Turks themselves have estimated the amount required at £30,000; and at one place, Ali Bey, a notorious fanatic and a participator in the outrages, has been appointed to superintend the works. Nothing whatever appears to have been done to restore the industries of the Christian population. From the reports which have reached Her Majesty's Government it is doubtful how many of the 80 women have been restored to their homes. Sixty-eight women and children are stated to have been brought back to Batak, but others still remain in the hands of their captors or are otherwise retained, and the efforts of the Pacha of Salonica to recover those who had been taken to that Province have been impeded by the Mutessarif of Drama and other subordinates. Instead of examples having been made on the spot, the inquiries of the Commission under Sadoullah Bey have been conducted at a distance from the scene of the principal outrages, and witnesses have hail consequently to be summoned from a considerable distance, the proceedings being thus delayed, the effect of examples lost, and the ends of justice to a great extent frustrated. The conduct of the Commission has also been in many other respects most unsatisfactory. The few members of it who have shown any capacity for judicial investigation have been checked and hindered by the interruptions of their colleagues, and months after the massacre of hundreds of women and children and of unarmed men, the Commissioners are still considering whether such murders are crimes."—[Turkey, No. 2, 1877—p. 15.] I think I have read sufficient of that despatch. I will read more if the House wishes; but I think that what I have read shows what was the opinion of Her Majesty's Government on the 24th November with regard to the progress made on the subject referred to by my hon. and learned Friend. Lord Salisbury executed the instructions he received under that despatch on the 8th December. I need not read what Lord Salisbury says in his despatch, which will be found in the Blue Book; but I may state generally the results of the Commission sitting at Philippopolis for the trial of the persons implicated in the events in Bulgaria. Achmet Aga and Melto Behtash have been condemned to death; Achmet Tchaousch of Kara Boulak to hard labour for life; Alish Pelwan to four years' hard labour; Fetha to eight years' hard labour; Abdullah Effendi, the Kaitik of the Mudir of Derbend, to three and a half years' hard labour; Kutchuk Halil to six months' imprisonment; and Achmet Tchaousch of Dorkovo to three months' imprisonment. The Vali of Adrianople has also been dismissed, and Ali Bey, Mutessarif of Drama, has been recalled. Hafiz Effendi has been acquitted, it having been proved that he was not present at the massacres. Tossoun Bey, who, according to Mr. Baring's Reports, was one of the most deserving of punishment, has been acquitted, and Mr. Baring has in consequence been recalled by Mr. Jocelyn from attending the Commission at Philippopolis. When the Commissioners have finished the cases of Batak and Dervent, they are to proceed to Tirnova to make inquiries north of the Balkans. With respect to Shefket Pasha, a Commission has been despatched to the caza of Slimnia, to inquire into what occurred there last May; and when that Commission has finished its labours, if it appears that he ought to be put upon his trial the authorities have already promised that nothing shall be done to shield him from the consequences of his acts. With regard to that part of the Question relating to the re-building of the houses and churches, some progress, I am glad to say, has been made. Mr. Baring reports that none of the villagers are without some sort of shelter. Mr. Long—whose efforts we all know for bettering the condition of the Bulgarians—has also been endeavouring to give them what assistance he can. He states that the Turkish authorities are friendly, and he has every reason to be grateful for the support they have uniformly given him. Little apparently has hitherto been done to assist the restoration of the native industries, and with regard to the 80 women missing from Batak, 68 women and children are stated to have been sent back. Relief has also been distributed by the authorities generally, and agricultural implements have been supplied to some of the destitute villagers. I hope the House will be satisfied with this very meagre summary of some of the despatches which will be found in the Blue Book. I do not think I could have trespassed much further on the attention of the House. The whole subject is contained in the Blue Books, and if the hon. and learned Gentleman wishes for any more Papers regarding any particular ease I shall be happy to lay them before the House. Under any circumstances Her Majesty's Government will continue to present to the House from time to time any information that may be received.


If I may be permitted, I would ask a Question, or rather two Questions which strictly grow out of the answer just given by the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary. ["Order!"] I apprehend it is quite common for the convenience of the House to do what I am now proposing to do, which hon. Gentlemen opposite do not seem to be aware of. It is quite agreeable to me to wait until the end of the Questions when my name is down on the Paper for that purpose. I agree with what was stated by the hon. Gentleman as to its being impossible for him to give in a summary or tabulated form the result of these proceedings. But there is one chapter with regard to which it appears to me that a Return might be prepared, if Her Majesty's Government would be kind enough to do it, that would be of great utility. First, will the hon. Gentleman allow me to ask him, whether it is true that Shefket Pasha has been arrested, and on what date; and, secondly, whether it is true, as stated in the papers, that Shefket Pasha is a relative of Mid-hat Pasha? So much for that well-known individual. I think it would be possible for the Government, if they were so disposed, to prepare a Return of this kind, and I wish to ask if they will be good enough to do it. I shall be happy to give the terms in which I think this Return ought to be made. A Return, as far as it can be furnished from Papers in possession of Her Majesty's Government, of the dates, numbers, and particulars of judicial sentences; first, pronounced; secondly, executed, since the rising in Bulgaria down to the present time; first, on persons charged with complicity in the rising; second, on persons charged with the perpetration of outrages or complicity in outrages during its suppression, or with other misconduct subsequent thereto. ["Notice!"] I have no objection to give Notice; but I thought it might he convenient if, in connection with the Answer just given, I stated roughly now the kind of Return which it would be desirable that we should have.


May I ask the hon. Gentleman, whether the Government have any information as to the execution of the sentence on Achmet Aga?


We have no information as to the execution of the sen- tence on Achmet Aga. Of course, if I had heard that Achmet Aga had been executed, I would have mentioned it. With regard to the Notice of the right hon. Gentleman, nobody is better aware than he is that it would be impossible for me to give him an answer without consulting my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. With regard to Shefket Pasha being a relation of Midhat Pasha, that has been asserted, but I am not in a position to say whether it is true or false. As to his arrest, we have also made inquiries on the subject; and, certainly, if he has not been arrested, I may say that he is under the surveillance of the authorities at Constantinople.