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Correspondence respecting the Proceedings of the International Commission sent to the Mount Rhodope Districts.
Sir A. H. Layard to the Marquis of Salisbury.-(Received July 27.)
Therapia, July 18, 1878. THE Representatives of the Great Powers met on Monday last and yesterday at Her Majesty's Embassy to consider the steps to be taken to carry out the instructions given to them by the Plenipotentiaries at the Congress to appoint a Commission to inquire into the condition of the Mussulmans in Mount Rhodope and the neighbouring districts.
At our first meeting Prince Labanoff objected to the inquiries of the Commission being extended to territory occupied by the Russian troops, and proposed that, if they commenced in Mount Rhodope, they should end at the Russian lines. But ConsulGeneral Fawcett, Colonel Raab (the Austrian Military Attaché), and two other gentlemen who had been named as members of the Commission, pointed out that if the Russian Ambassador's proposal were accepted, the inquiry could lead to no practical results, as the greater number of the villages that have been destroyed, and whose inhabitants have been massacred or expelled, are within the Russian lines. This was stated yesterday to Prince Labanoff, and as my Austrian and French colleagues joined with me in insisting that the Commissioners should have full powers to proceed to any district they might think fit to visit, in order to carry out the object of their mission, it was finally agreed that, instead of starting from the coast of the Egean Sea, as had been proposed, they should go first to Philippopolis and commence their inquiries from that town, passing afterwards through the country between it and Mount Rhodope, from whence the Mahommedan population had been driven, and where they appear to have suffered most. Prince Labanoff, at our request, promised to obtain from the Russian head-quarters at that place the necessary protection and escort for the Commission.
His Excellency, however, informed us that he had to state, on the authority of Prince Dondoukoff Korsakoff, the Imperial Commissioner, that the Mussulman refugees could not be allowed to return in any numbers to the districts in the occupation of the Russians, who had no means of protecting them against the Bulgarians. I ventured to remark that if such were the case these unfortunate people, who ought to be protected by those who had taken possession of their country, would be left to starve, as, if they were not to be permitted to go back to their villages, I did not see how they were to live. One of the duties of the Commission, it appeared to me, was to find the means of restoring them to their homes. We ended by adopting a joint instruction to the Commissioners, a copy of which I have the honour to inclose, and they will leave on Saturday morning next, one or two of them being unable to make their preparations for an earlier day.
The selection of the Commissioners appears to me, on the whole, a good one, and I have every hope that they will execute with firmness and impartiality the mission confided to them.
Consul-General Fawcett was the only person here whom I could select as the British Member of the Commission, the staff of the Embassy being too much reduced in numbers to enable me to send one of its members, and I trust that your Lordship will approve my selection. Mr. Fawcett is especially qualified for the task, having himself previously visited a part of the country to which the inquiries of the Commission will
be directed, and having a personal knowledge of the condition and wants of the refugees. I beg to inclose copy of the special instructions that I have given to him. I have, &c. A. H. LAYARD.
Inclosure 1 in No. 1.
Memorandum of Ambassadors for appointment of Commission of Inquiry into State of the Rhodope District.
POUR se conformer aux instructions qu'ils ont reçues de leurs Gouvernements à la suite d'une décision du Congrès de Berlin à la date du 11 Juillet courant, leurs Excellences les Ambassadeurs d'Autriche, d'Angleterre, de France, et de Russie, et MM. les Chargés d'Affaires d'Italie et d'Allemagne, ont désigné comme Commissaires Spéciaux à cet effet:
M. le Colonel Raab, Attaché Militaire de l'Ambassade Impériale Royale Apostolique d'Autriche-Hongrie ;
Mr. Fawcett, Consul-Général d'Angleterre, et Juge de la Cour Consulaire de Sa Majesté Britannique;
M. Challet, Consul de France;
M. Basily, Second Secrétaire de l'Ambassade de Russie;
M. Graziani, Second Drogman de la Légation Royale d'Italie; et
M. Müller, Vice-Consul de Sa Majesté Impériale et Royale l'Empereur d'Allemagne. Ces messieurs ont pour mission d'aller au Rhodope et dans les contrées voisines pour s'enquérir de l'état des populations émigrées dans ce pays et de leurs souffrances. Ils évalueront autant que possible le nombre des réfugiés, chercheront à savoir les endroits d'où ils viennent, à connaître leur race, leur religion, les motifs qui les ont obligés de quitter leur pays, et qui les empêchent encore d'y retourner.
Ils s'informeront des moyens immédiats de porter le remède à leurs misères et de le prolonger jusqu'à ce que ces réfugiés puissent être rapatriés et réintégrés dans leurs foyers avec toute sécurité pour leur existence.
Ils s'entendront avec les autorités Russes, si besoin est, afin de se concerter sur les mesures à prendre pour arriver au rapatriement et pour se procurer des secours immédiats si cela est possible.
Au cas où les Commissaires jugeraient applicables immédiatement des mesures que leur suggéreraient leurs informations prises sur les lieux, ils en référeraient à leurs Ambassades respectives.
Les autorités militaires Russes et Turques devront faciliter à MM. les Commissaires l'accomplissement de la mission qui leur est confiée. MM. les Commissaires se rendront d'abord à Philippopoli, s'y mettront en rapport avec les autorités Russes, et de là régleront leur exploration selon leurs convenances.
Therapia, le 17 Juillet, 1878.
IN execution of the instructions which they have received from their Governments upon a decision of the Congress of Berlin, dated the 11th instant, their Excellencies the Ambassadors of Austria, England, France, and Russia, and the Chargés d'Affaires of Italy and Germany, have named as Special Commissioners for this purpose
Colonel Raab, Military Attaché to the Imperial Royal and Apostolic Embassy of Austria-Hungary;
Mr. Fawcett, Consul-General of England, and Judge of Her Britannic Majesty's Consular Court;
M. Challet, Consul of France;
M. Basily, Second Secretary to the Russian Embassy;
M. Graziani, Second Dragoman to the Royal Italian Legation; and
M. Müller, Vice-Consul to His Imperial and Royal Majesty the Emperor of Germany.
These gentlemen are commissioned to proceed to the district of the Rhodope, and to the neighbouring country, in order to inquire into the condition of the emigrant population in those localities, and into their sufferings. They will estimate, as far as possible, the number of these refugees, will endeavour to ascertain the places from whence they come, their race, their religion, the motives which have compelled them to leave their country, and which still prevent their return.
They will ascertain what measures can be taken for the immediate relief of their sufferings, and for continuing such relief until these refugees can be repatriated and restored to their homes with every security for their existence.
They will consult, if necessary, with the Russian authorities in order to concert the measures to be taken for effecting the repatriation of the refugees, and for obtaining the means of affording immediate relief, if that is practicable.
In case the Commissioners should consider that measures suggested to them by information acquired on the spot are capable of immediate application, they shall refer to their respective Ambassadors upon the subject.
The Russian and Turkish military authorities will assist the Commissioners in the accomplishment of the mission which is entrusted to them. The Commissioners will proceed in the first instance to Philippopolis, will there place themselves in communication with the Russian authorities, and from thence will organize their exploration as they think best.
Therapia, July 17, 1878.
Inclosure 2 in No. 1.
Sir A. H. Layard to Mr. Fawcett.
Therapia, July 17, 1878.
Sir, THE Congress of Berlin recently resolved that the Ambassadors of the Great Powers at Constantinople should arrange with the Porte for the immediate dispatch of a European Commission to Mount Rhodope and the neighbouring districts, charged to verify on the spot the gravity of the facts alleged with regard to the sufferings of the Mussulman population, and to endeavour to remedy them as far as possible.
I have been in communication with my colleagues on this subject, and we have decided to appoint a Commission at once for the purpose of carrying out the resolution of the Congress. The knowledge and experience you have acquired of the condition of the population of the districts to the south of the Balkans, from personally visiting them, render you especially fit to take part in it. I therefore trust that it will be convenient to you and consistent with your official duties to represent Her Majesty's Embassy upon it.
I inclose a joint instruction, which was drawn up at a meeting of the Representatives of the Great Powers for the guidance of the Commission. You will learn from it the principal objects of your mission, and the names of the gentlemen who will accompany you as your colleagues. I have only to add that I shall be glad to receive from you for communication to Her Majesty's Secretary of State any special report that you may be able to address to me upon the condition of the country that you may visit, and upon the events which have led to the sufferings of the Mussulman population, and to the rising in Mount Rhodope.
A Representative of the Porte will accompany the Commission, which will proceed in the first place to Philippopolis, and it is hoped that your colleagues and yourself will be able to leave together on Saturday morning.
I am, &c.
Sir A. H. Layard to the Marquis of Salisbury.-(Received July 31.)
Therapia, July 30, 1878.
I HAVE received the following information to-day from the International Commissioners at Gumuldjina :
"According to information given by refugees in the neighbourhood of Dimotica, it appears that during the last six weeks the Russians have burnt innocent villages and destroyed the inhabitants. We have just received trustworthy information that the Russians are on the point of attacking Turkish village near Karaja, which is outside their lines, and where the Commission intend to go. The Commissioners will endeavour to prevent useless shedding of blood."
The Marquis of Salisbury to Sir A. H. Layard.
Sir, Foreign Office, August 1, 1878. I HAVE received your Excellency's telegram dated the 30th ultimo, in which you inform me that you had associated yourself with your French, Austrian, and Italian colleagues in sending identic instructions to the International Commissioners, desiring that they should, notwithstanding the opposition, and even the withdrawal of the Russian Commissioner, continue their inquiries, as long as they are in a majority, into the sufferings to which it is alleged the Mussulman population of the districts occupied by the Russians and Bulgarians have been subjected since the signature of the Treaty of San Stefano.
I have now to inform your Excellency that your action in this matter is approved by Her Majesty's Government.
I am, &c.
Sir A. H. Layard to the Marquis of Salisbury.—(Received August 7.)
Therapia, July 29, 1878.
I HAVE the honour to inclose copies of the telegrams sent to myself and Count Zichy by the British and Austro-Hungarian members of the Commission of Inquiry into the condition of the Mussulman fugitives in the districts of Mount Rhodope, and of the minutes of the proceedings of the Commission.
In reply to the telegrams from the British, French, Austrian, and Italian Commissioners, stating that their Russian colleague was endeavouring to stop the inquiries in which they were engaged, and threatened to break up the Commission by withdrawing from it, they have been directed to continue their inquiries as long as they are in a majority, notwithstanding the opposition and withdrawal of M. Basily.
I have, &c.
P.S.-I have the honour to inclose copy of a further telegram which has been received from the Commission on the 1st August.
Inclosure 1 in No. 4.
Colonel de Raab to Count Zichy.
Cavalla, le 27 Juillet, 1878. COMMISSION, arrivée mardi à Xanthi, a trouvé nombre considérable de réfugiés ; elle a vu, entendu, et interrogé les autorités locales. Mercredi elle recevra des délégués de chacun des villages d'où viennent les réfugiés pour les interroger sur ce qu'ils ont souffert.
Cavalla, July 27, 1878. COMMISSION having arrived on Tuesday at Xanthi, has found a considerable number of refugees; it has seen, heard, and interrogated the local authorities. On Wednesday it will receive delegates from each of the villages from which the refugees come, in order to examine them as to their sufferings.