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Colonial Cases

Karl, 1913


Source: The Montreal Gazette, 23 July 1913 [Google News Archive]


Legal Light on Russian Refugee Case in Egypt.

(From a Cairo Cablegram.)

   Even social circles, to say nothing of those of the army and diplomacy, are discussing the fate of the unfortunate Karl, or Abramovitch, the Russian reformer, who was arrested here while on his way from Constantinople to Italy and held by the Russian Consul for extradition to answer for many crimes against the Czar's Government.

   Karl was the sailor who inspired the mutiny in the Black Sea fleet a few years ago, and since his escape from Russia he has been the head of the Russian Sailors' Union, and published a little paper with the object of bettering the condition of Russian seamen.

   It has been assumed by various authorities and even by the British Foreign Minister, Sir Edward Grey, that, according to the capitulations, the extradition of Karl was a foregone conclusion.  These capitulations provide that a foreigner arrested for any crime must be tried by the consular court of his own government, and not by a native court.  As in this case the tribunal would be the Russian consular court there would seem to be no help for Karl.

   Owing, however, to the unceremonious way in which this grant has been gradually enlarged so as to give local effect to the whole criminal law of the states enjoying it, and most especially through the facilities at the disposition of the consuls for making arrests without consulting the Ottoman or Egyptian authorities, a right of extradition has grown up, and has been tacitly admitted and has several times been exercised by Great Britain and France.

   It is held, however, that, as in these cases no objection was made by the Ottoman Government to the exercise of this right, it need not imply that the right has been established nor that in a certain case the native Government may not intervene and forbid extradition because nothing about extradition is stated in the capitalisations.

   Indeed, this is justly what the Turkish Government did in the case of the Hungarian and Polish refugees in Turkey whose extradition was demanded by Austria and Hungary in 1848.  The men were tried by consular courts and held for extradition.  The Turkish Government, however, finally declined to allow them to be taken from the country.  A British fleet was ordered to the Dardanelles to prevent the extradition by force if necessary.

   It is, therefore, held here that if Sir Edward Grey would only stiffen the backbone of the Egyptian and Ottoman governments, in spite of the British and French precedents to the contrary, Karl may not be sent to Russia, on the ground that the capitulations refer to local crime and make no mention of extradition.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School