Ismaïl Enver Pacha

25.04.2016 ( Last modified: 02.06.2016 )
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Ismail Enver was born to a wealthy family in Istanbul on 22 November 1881. After completing military studies in Germany, he rose rapidly in the Ottoman army upon his return, becoming a Pasha at the age of 32.

On 23 January 1913, the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) organised a coup d’état and introduced a military dictatorship headed, within a few months, by Enver Pasha, Djemal Pasha and Talat Pasha (see “related cases”). While Enver’s portfolio was only that of War Minister, it was he who, in reality, was the main leader of the regime up until the end of the First World War.

Enver Pasha is considered to be one of those principally responsible for the Armenian Genocide.

The massacre of the Armenians by the Turks during the First World War is considered to be the first genocide of the 20th century. It began on 24 April 1915 in Istanbul, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, with the assassination of 600 renowned Armenians by order of the Government.

By the end of the summer of 1915, two thirds of the Turkish-Armenians, amounting to around 1.2 million people had perished under generally appalling conditions.

Turkish nationalists had seized power a few years earlier in Istanbul. After the entry of their country into the Great War, the Russians invaded Anatolia. The Turks, being forced to retreat were infuriated and multiplied the violent attacks against the Turkish-Armenians, who were guilty, in their eyes, of being favourably disposed towards the Christian invaders.

The town of Van rose up and proclaimed an autonomous Armenian government. The nationalists seized on this as a pretext to accomplish their aim of total elimination of the Armenians. The Interior Minister, Talat Pasha ordained the assassination of the Armenians in Istanbul followed by the Armenians in the army. Following on this, it was the turn of the various Armenian communities to the east of the country.

The following is the text of a telegram from the Interior Minister: “The Government has decided to destroy all of the Armenians living in Turkey. An end must be put to their existence, no matter what criminal measures be taken to do so. No account should be taken of age or gender. Scruples of conscience have no place here”.

In November 1918, Enver Pasha fled to Germany on board the Lorelei, accompanied by Djemal Pasha and Talat Pasha.


legal procedure

In November 1918, Enver Pasha fled to Germany on board the Lorelei, accompanied by Djemal Pasha and Talat Pasha.
On 2 November 1918, at the very same moment that Enver Pasha was fleeing from Istanbul Members of Parliament were debating a motion to take up proceedings against Enver Pasha and six other leaders who were on the run. Amongst the charges being brought were those related to the massacres of the Armenians. More precisely, the Ministers implicated were accused of having created “gangs of thugs, whose threats to life, infringement of property rights and slurs on personal honour, rendered these same Ministers guilty of complicity in the resultant tragic crimes”.

After the dissolution of parliament by the Sultan on 21 December 1918, the jurisdiction to try the Ministers in question was set up as a Court Martial. By imperial decree the statutes of a new Court Martial were pronounced on 8 March 1919. It was this court which was to judge the accused that had fled into exile.

To this end, the court ordered the seven top leaders of the Young Turk regime, including Enver Pasha, to appear before the court within ten days, failing which they would be judged in absentia.

With regard to the charges being pressed, these were widened little by little to include, notably “the massacre and destruction of the Armenians”. The accusation was, in effect, that the Ottoman leaders had formulated a vast plan with this as its final goal.

The Court issued its verdict on 5 July 1919. The accused were found guilty of orchestrating Turkey’s entry into the First World War and of having committed massacres against the Armenians.

Enver Pasha was sentenced to death in absentia.

After fleeing into exile in Germany, Enver Pasha made contact with German army officers in order to continue the war in Central Asia against the United Kingdom. He joined the Basmachi revolt in Central Asia in 1921. He was killed in action by the Red Army on August 4, 1922 in Tajikistan.



It is in the context of the Armenian Genocide that the term “crimes against humanity” was employed for the first time.

On 23 May 1915, Great Britain, France and Russia conjointly addressed a warning to the Young Turk Government in the following terms:

“For approximately one month the Kurdish and Turkish populations of Armenia, in connivance with, and often with the help of the Ottoman authorities, have been massacring Armenians. Such massacres took place around mid-April in Erzerum, Tertchan, Eguine, Bitlis, Mouch, Sassoun, Zeitoun and in all of Cilicia. The inhabitants of about one hundred villages around Van have been murdered and the Armenian quarter has been besieged by the Kurds. At the same time, in Constantinople, the Ottoman government has been meting out severe punishment on a helpless Armenian population. In view of such new crimes against humanity and civilisation on the part of Turkey, the Allied Governments proclaim publicly to the, Sublime Porte that they will hold personally responsible, all the members of the Ottoman Government for the aforementioned crimes as well as any of their collaborators who are found to be implicated in such massacres.”




Armenian genocide refers to the Ottoman government’s systematic extermination of its minority Armenian subjects during World War I. By 1914, Ottoman authorities had begun propaganda to present Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire as a threat to the empire’s security. By 1915, various measures against the Armenian minority had been taken. On 24 April 1915, Ottoman authorities arrested hundreds of renowned Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople (now Istanbul) and deported them to Chankri and Ayash, where they were executed. Thereafter, the Ottoman military started implementing the genocide by having recourse to burnings, drowning, use of poison, drug overdose, deportations, death marches and placement in extermination camps of the minority Armenians. The Assyrians, the Greeks and other minority groups were similarly targeted for extermination by the Ottoman government. The total number of people killed as a result has been estimated at between 1 and 1.5 million.


In 1919, under British pressure, Sultan Mehmed VI ordered domestic courts-martial to try members of the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) for their role in taking the Ottoman Empire into World War I and contributing to genocide. By April 1919, over 100 top Turkish officials were under arrest and four major trials began concerning Armenian massacres and deportations in Yozgat and in Trebizond and the role of the CUP and of cabinet ministers in the genocide. The military courts found that it was the will of the CUP to eliminate the Armenians physically. Consequently, the courts-martial officially disbanded the CUP and confiscated its assets, and the assets of those found guilty. More trials were planned but never held.

On 13 January 1921, the courts-martial were abolished altogether, with jurisdiction reverting to regular military courts. Nearly all of the key figures of the CUP managed to escape Turkey before being brought to trial. Some lesser CUP leaders were condemned to death in absentia or sentenced to prison terms, but many of these eventually escaped or were set free.


As dozens of the accused Turks began being released, Britain decided to take custody of sixty-eight of the most prominent prisoners and transfer them to a British detention center in Malta, where they were held for three years while searches and investigations were made. The treaty of Sèvres (peace treaty between the Ottoman Empire and the Allies) provided for trials of those responsible for the massacres, but it never solidified and due to lack of evidence, the detainees were eventually returned to Turkey in exchange for British hostages. On 24 July 1923, the Treaty of Lausanne was signed, officially ending the war between the Ottoman Empire and the Allies. With its Declaration VIII of Amnesty, prosecution of eventual perpetrators of genocide was halted.


As the accused were being released, the Ninth World Congress of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation made the decision to track down and execute the most culpable Ottoman leaders in a covert undertaking called “Operation Nemesis”. By the end of 1922, a dozen of top Turkish military and political leaders were assassinated.


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