The lotus case concerns the criminal trial between France and Turkey, where the
clash between these two countries' vessels took place in the high sea on 2
August 1926. The case was accepted and the decision was made by the permanent
court of international justice on 7 September 1927. This case is famous for
scrutinizing the condition of jurisdiction.
Facts Of The Case
The main issue that came forward in this case between France and Turkey
regarding Lotus and Boz-Kourt was:
- On August 2, 1926, a French ship named 'Lotus' was going to
Constantinople and the name of the officer of the ship was Lieutenant Deman. On
the same day, a Turkish ship named 'Boz-Kourt' the officer of which was Hassan Bey was passing through the open seas.
- On 2 August 1926, a massive collision took place between S. S. Lotus,
the French vessel, and Boz-Kourt, the Turkish vessel. This mishappening occurred at
Mytilene in Greece. Boz-Kourt was the vessel that was wrecked and eventually
sank due to collision. S. S. Lotus gave its foremost effort to save the Turkish
ship and passengers who were there on the ship. Whereas Lotus was able to rescue
only 10 passengers who were on the Boz-Kourt ship but still 8 people on that
- The French national, Lt. Demons was interrogated by the Turkish
officials when the ship reached Constantinople on 3rd August 1926 and adduce
evidence of the collision.
- On 5th August 1926 both French and Turkish lieutenants who were on duty
were arrested by the Turkish officials without any prior information given
- Both Lt. Demons and Hasaan Bey were accused and had charges against them of
unintentional killing which is generally referred to as man slaughtering.
- French government was against this case for not having any prior
information that their captain got arrested and accused of unintentional
- On the 28th of August the case was heard by a court in Turkey, to which
Lt. Demons argued that the Turkish government did not have any jurisdiction
to run a case against him. His point was that since the accident took place
on the high seas (the area of the oceans that are not controlled by any
country) the country had absolute authority, whose flag was aviated on the
vessel and that was France. The Turkish court refused this argument.
- There was not only a case against Deman, he was sentenced to jail for
killing those passengers on board for 80 days with a fine of 22 pounds while
Hassan Bey was sentenced to a more serious penalty. According to the French
captain and his representative, this decision given by the Turkish Court was
discriminatory in nature, therefore violated international law on jurisdiction.
Although the French ship helped those passengers to come out of that tragedy
alive. So Turkey does not have any right to bring any case against France.
- France decided to take this case under the International Court. They
thought what was going in Turkey is unjustified.
- Afterward, with mutual consent both Turkey and France, agreed to refer
this case to the Permanent Court of International Justice (PCIJ) which is located in
- There was a special agreement registered by the administration of France
and Turkish representatives on October 12th, 1926 that the further
proceedings on the case will be governed in the Permanent Court of
International Justice following international law. The judgments were to be
delivered as per Article 40 of the statute of article and Article 35 of the
rules of the court.
- There was a dispute between both the countries as France wanted to set
free Lt. Demons from this case and remove all the accused charges. But
Turkey was arguing that Lt.Demons was accountable for the loss and he should be imprisoned
with the fines. So at last, they decided to solve the dispute on the
administration of the Permanent Court of International Justice.
- Did Turkey violate international law when Turkish courts exercised
jurisdiction over a crime committed by a French national, outside Turkey?
- If the reply is yes, what economic and financial compensation should be
made to Mr. Demons, in relation to the international law, if Turkey is found
to infringe these principles?
The court had to decide whether the accusation that was brought by Turkey was
lawful or France was right and should be made free from all the charges brought
against Mr. Demons.
The Judgement of this case was made during the 12th session of the Permanent
Court of International Justice (PCIJ). In this case, France was represented by
Basdevant, Professor at the Faculty of Law of Paris, and Turkey was represented
by His Excellency Mahmout Essat Bey, Minister of Justice. President was Huber,
vice president Mr. Weiss, Former president Loder. Judges appointed for this case
was Lord Finlay, Nyholm, Moore, De Bustamante, Altamira, Oda, Anzilotti, and
On 7th September 1927, the judgment was made by the Permanent Court of
International Justice (PCIJ) in Geneva to answer the two major issues. First,
the Permanent Court of International Justice (PCIJ) saw that Turkey did not have
any right to try the French national, Lt.Demons as both countries had concurrent
jurisdiction over the collision that occurred in the high seas. But later
Permanent Court of International Justice (PCIJ) discovered that, although France
had the jurisdiction because of their flag aviated on the ship, international
law did not give France complete jurisdiction and authority. In this case,
Turkey was absolutely right in its laws when they filed the suit against France
and did not act against the international law, contradictory to article 15 as
demanded by French authority.
Considering the first argument made by France was void and declined and the
second question that was about the compensation due and payable to Mr. Demons
was also rejected by the Permanent Court of International Justice.
The International Court reached the conclusion that there is no Law in the
International Law under which a State, whose ship is affected by a collision of
ships, cannot prosecute an offender. Under such a situation, the Turkish Court
has the right to try the offence, and therefore ordered that it has not
infringed the International Law. France's argument about their flag in the
vessel on high seas also did not apply here as there was no international law
that could compel Turkish negotiation as their ship was destructed.
The Lotus case laid the foundation of the lotus principle. There are certain
special rules that have come out in relation to the lotus case regarding the
collision, local claim, etc.
The first lotus principle was related to the jurisdiction of a country or state
with its territory. A state or country has no right to exercise its power
outside its border without international agreement or enacted laws giving it the
right to do so. This is the first lotus principle. It is stated in Paragraph 45
that one country cannot operate without its jurisdiction unless there is a
special law enacted by an international tribunal to be applied.
The second principle of the lotus case was that a country or state has the right
to use its power within its territory. The state may exercise its authority in
matters of any nature that it deems necessary to exercise. The state shall have
the right to exercise its jurisdiction within its own authority even if there is
no specific international law that gives the state exclusive powers to do so. In
such cases, the country or state shall apply for a broader extension of the
jurisdiction which is protected by the supreme rules of international law. This
is stated in Paragraph 46 and Para 47.
From the lotus principle, it was understandable that a country or state was
given special freedom within its territory. There were no restrictions on
international law. In the case of Turkey, Boz-Kourt, their vessel was considered
their own territory. This gave Turkey the right to bring any action against
France and Mr. Demons.
The Lotus case between Turkey and France have laid down a new dimension to
international law concerning high seas collisions and territorial issues. In
this case, it was found that although the collision took place outside the area
of the two related parties, as the Turkish ship was damaged by Lotus,
Turkey had the right to bring any claim against them. It was decided back then
that in all cases involving or related to the case, the decision of this case
would be applied. Lotus's case has been used in criminal and civil cases ever
since. It was very important to decide what would be occupied by the territory
France has long said that legal questions in collision cases are
frequently heard in criminal cases, as countries tend to prosecute only before
the State Flag. After this lotus case, a convention was signed at Geneva in 1958
that is the High Seas Convention which specifically pointed towards jurisdiction
on collisions on the high seas under Article 11. If this conference had existed
before the time of the Lotus collision, the PCIJ judgment would have been
different. Turkey would not have the power to bring criminal charges against L.t
Demons as a result of Article 11 paragraph 1.
- 1927 P.C.I.J. (ser. A) No. 10 (Sept. 7)