Michael J. Kelly
“Shared Intent in a Collapsing Empire: Pan-Turkism as Mens Rea Evidence under the Akayesu Standard for Genocide against Christian Populations in the Late Ottoman Period.
Genocide was not recognized as an international crime until the treaty of 1948. However, the legal elements of this atrocity have been applied retrospectively, with varying results, to pre-1948 atrocities in order to determine whether those events qualified as genocide within the strict legal meaning of the term. While the application of facts to determine actus reuselements are relatively straightforward, similar applications to determine themens rea of the perpetrators are more nuanced and certainly more difficult to ascertain. I propose to construct a comparative catalogue of possible genocides of Christian populations from 1908-1923 to include the Adana Massacre (1909), ethnic cleansing of the Thracian Bulgarians (1913), Armenian Genocide (1915), Greek Genocide (1914-1922), and Assyrian Genocide (1914-1920). In each instance, a key query will be whether the contemporaneous expression Pan-Turkism sufficed as an element of organized forethought to carry out the atrocity such that it could provide a foundation for a finding of adequate mens rea to carry out a genocide.
As a movement, Pan-Turkism was in part a response to the 19th century advent of Pan-Slavism and Pan-Germanism – both of which collided in dramatic fashion within and around the confines of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and which lead to a significant degree to the outbreak of the First World War. Consequently, for the central tenets of this movement to evolve into a much more sinister mental commitment to commit genocide, it must be sufficiently coupled with a desire to eliminate entire populations based on race, ethnicity, nationality, or (in this case most probably) religion. Although the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda’s decision in the Akayesu case allows specific intent to commit genocide to in some cases be inferred from the facts, this does not truly alleviate the necessity of proving the existence of mental element altogether.