Mafalda Ade

The Ottoman Commercial Tribunal in Damascus and the Use of Testimony and Evidence in Mixed Cases in the 19th Century

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: Ottoman Empire; Syria; Commercial Tribunal; Damascus; Tanzimat.

Commercial tribunals ("mehakim-i ticaret") were set up in the Ottoman Empire in the mid-nineteenth century in the framework of the Tanzimat reforms. Both in the capital and in leading provincial centres, these new institutions were geared to deal with all types of commercial litigation and especially with disputes involving non-Ottoman traders. This essay explores the first decades of operation of the commercial tribunal in Damascus: its origins and foundations, the interference of the foreign consular corps, and most prominently, the question of admissible proof. It investigates how oral witnessing and written evidence were handled in order to show that notwithstanding the adoption of the French "Code de Commerce", the actual practice of the tribunal accommodated elements from diverse legal cultures. The proofs brought before the court both reflect the pluralist nature of Damascene trade and demonstrate the adaptability of Ottoman commercial jurisdiction in the reform period.

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