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Colonial Cases


The following was selected, edited and transcribed by Peter Bullock.


The Times, 21 May 1881

SIR CHARLES DILKE was subsequently subjected to cross-examination at the hands of MR. MACIVER and SIR HENRY DRUMMOND WOLFF as to the effect of the French protectorate upon English interests in Tunis. .... In the Gazette notices which we publish to-day there is signal proof that the Convention of 1875 is regarded as binding.  The announcement is published of the creation of a Consular Court in Tunis, with jurisdiction over English subjects, in accordance with the Convention concluded with the Regency. ...


The Times, 26 May 1881


The Havas Agency corrects the impression created by an announcement in the London Gazette that England has just establisher a Consular Court of Jurisdiction at Tunis.  She has simply nominated a Vice-Consul, the Consul having pressed six months ago for the appointment of a legal deputy.


The Times, 27 May 1881

In the House of Commons last evening, ...

Various questions were put relating to the affairs of Tunis, but the only substantial piece of information elicited from SIR C. DILKE was a statement that the Convention with Tunis would continue until brought to an end by one of the parties and that the Consular Court was part of the arrangement.  In regard to the alleged conversations relating to Tripoli, he said the Government had laid on the table all the information about it which they thought necessary, and they were unwilling to be drawn into any further discussion.


The Times, 5 August 1881


LORD BECTIVE asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether Her Majesty's Government were aware that the Bey of Tunis, under the instigation of M. Roustan, had issued a decree removing the Enfida case from the Hanefi local court to the Maliki local court, although, early in the present year, he declared he had no power to control the action of these courts; whether Her Majesty's Government were aware that the Maliki Court formerly declared itself incompetent to entertain the suit, and that the French Government, prior to the 12th of May, declined the jurisdiction of the local Tunisian courts for the Enfida case; whether Her Majesty's Government considered these acts of M. Roustan and the Bey were an infringement of the Anglo-Tunisian Treaty of 1863, and contrary to the tenour of Lord Granville's letter of the 21st of April, and therefore violations of the rights of British subjects; and, if Her Majesty's Government could inform the House whether or not the acts aforesaid were approver by the French Government, and if they were prepared to take any steps in the matter.

   SIR C. DILKE. - The Enfida case has been removed by a decree of the Bey from the Hanefi to the Maliki Court, and Mr. Levy having protested against this measure, further proceedings have been suspended.  As regards the second part of the question Her Majesty's Government have been given to understand that the Maliki Court had formerly declared itself incompetent to entertain this suit; and it appears from Lord Lyons' despatch of the 16th of February (which has been laid before the House), that the French Government had declared "that it was impossible, under the circumstances, that the French Government could consent to leave the Enfida question to the decision of the Tunisian local authorities."

   Her Majesty's Government are awaiting a further report as to the facts of the case, and in the meantime, they are not in a position to form an opinion as to whether the proceedings that have taken place constitute a violation of the Anglo-Tunisian Treaty of 1863, or of Mr. Levy's rights as a British subject. 

   Her Majesty's Government have directed Mr. Arpa, the Judge of the Consular Court at Tunis, who was absent on leave, to return to his post, and furnish a report on the legal bearings of the case.  Recent communications have passed between Her Majesty's Government and the French Government on the subject with a view to a satisfactory solution.


The Times, 11 August 1881


Tunis, Aug. 9.

I am informed on good authority that the Bey will order the Maliki tribunal to proceed with the Enfida affair, and to pronounce judgment in Mr. Levy's absence should he decline to appear.

Tunis, Aug. 11.

As stated in my telegram of yesterday, the Bey has ordered the Mailki cadi to proceed with the Enfida question notwithstanding Mr. Levy's objections, and Mr. Levy has now been again cited to appear before the tribunal to-morrow.  I understand that he does not intend to do so.  He has protested, pointing out that the Bey's procedure is in contravention of the Anglo-Tunisian Treaty, and he makes a petition, proving that, as defendant in the suit, his claim must be decided by the British Consular Court. [Part published in edition of 10th.]


The Times, 13 August 1881


August 12.

Owing to Mr. Levy not having appeared yesterday at the Maliki Court, the Enfida question was adjourned, and Mr. Levy is now again cited for to-morrow.  He has not, however, received a reply to his protest asking that the case be tried in the British Consular Court, and he has now sent in another protest in which he points out that he has a declaration made by the Maliki Ulema to the effect that the Maliki tribunal is incompetent to judge the affair.

   There appears to be no doubt that the Bey had no power to transfer the case, particularly as both the litigants are Europeans.  The British Consular Judge, who was absent, has returned to Tunis for the purpose of inquiring into the legal aspects of the affair.


The Times, 27 February 1882


The irritation which now exists between the Italian colonist and the French authorities shows no sign of abatement.  The Italian Consular Court was on Saturday densely crowded during the trial of a Sicilian charged with forcibly resisting the French gendarmes at Goletta.  The sentence asserts in the strongest possible terms that the French police officers can have in Tunis no authority over Italian subjects, but condemns the accused to one day's imprisonment for a common assault.  The decision has greatly displeased both parties.


The Times, 7 October 1882


Mostly concerning the Regency and France.


The Morning Post (London), 20 January 1883


Mustapha Ben Ismail has left for Paris in order to substantiate his pretensions to French nationality.  In consequence of the numerous claims against him, the French Consular Court yesterday sequestrated his property.


The Times, 21 February 1883


Tunis, the French, and rights of British subjects.


The Standard (London), 29 June 1883



You are aware that negotiations have been going on for some time between England and France to abolish the system by which British subjects in Tunis were subject exclusively to the jurisdiction of the British Consyular Court, and make them subject to the French Tribunals.  A question on the subject in the House of Commons failed to elicit a conclusive reply, but the Temps to-night conveys the information which Mr. Montague Guest did not obtain from Lord E. Fitzmaurice. The Temps says: - The objections raised by the Foreign Office to the abolition of the capitulations rest upon a subtle distinction.  England abandons the privileged position of her subjects with regard to the Tunisian tribunals, but nevertheless means to maintain the system of capitulations under the pretext that the present regime of the Regency has a temporary character (un caratere aleatoire), which does not for the present justify foreign nationals in giving up the benefit of those Conventions.  The reservation of the British cabinet, therefore, implies that there is a possibility of the evacuation of Tunis by our troops, and of an abandonment of the Protectorate.  Without dwelling on the improbability of such a contingency, this objection seems odd on the part of a Power that assented to the abolition of the capitulations in Bosnia and Herzegovina."


The Times, 31 December 1883


From the 1st of January, 1884, the exercise of British Consular jurisdiction will cease throughout the Regency of Tunis.  All British subjects residing in this country will from that date be civilly and criminally amenable to the newly established French Tribunals, and the British Consular Court constituted at Tunis by the Order in Council of the 18th may, 1881, will be abolished.  ...

... The British colony in Tunis numbers some 11,000 souls, and the first Consular court was established there in 1662.


The Times, 9 January 1884


Letter to the Editor, problems of some Maltese and a Mr. Shaw.


The Times, 17 January 1884


Jurisdiction of German Consular Courts to end 1 February; pending cases to be settled by that court at the wish of the litigants, or transferred.


The Times, 8 March 1884


[Lord Langton outlines the background of the changes in Tunis.]

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