presented by the Royal Government of Montenegro, on the 8th November 1920, to the Governments of the Great Powers against the illegal imprisonment and sending of Montenegrin patriots and notables before the military court by the occupying agents of Serbia in Montenegro.
Since the month of November 1918, at which time the Serbian army formed part of the Allied Army, and was under the orders of the French General Venel and his Chief General Franchet d'Esperey, and entered Montenegro and crushed under foot the sovereignty of this Allied State, the Serbian troops have devastated the country and committed innumerable crimes. A certain number of edifying examples of their Asiatic brutality, supported by proofs, are set out in the recent official publication of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Montenegro.
In the meantime, the Royal Montenegrin Government takes the liberty of drawing the attention of the Great Powers to the thousands of Montenegrins arbitrarily deprived of their liberty, and obliged to suffer all the cruelty which the savage fancy and sanguinary instinct of the Serbs and their agents is capable of imagining.
The number of Montenegrin patriots imprisoned for purely political motives is estimated at about 4,000. Nevertheless, this number is constantly changing since, as some are set at liberty, others, in their turn, take their places. Amongst these prisoners there were, and there are still, women and children, and even women in the family way who have been confined in the prisons. The Serbs imprison the Montenegrin patriots, because they will not recognise the forced annexation of their country, and the women and children because they hope in this way to get at the former.
There is also a class of prisoners of which the number amounts to several hundreds, and who have been in prison since December 1918. Amongst them are several former Ministers, members of the Government which declared war on the Central Powers and thus bound Montenegro, without conditions and without any Treaty, by simple faith in their loyalty, their nobility and their sense of justice, to Serbia and to the Allies. There are also a considerable number of Members of Parliament, Superior Officers, High Functionaries, priests, and Montenegrin Generals who, during this war, rendered valuable services to the common cause of the Allies and who, in 1915, saved the Serbian army from certain capture. The greater part of these patriots have been imprisoned for having attempted to address to the Peace Conference a written protest exposing this international crime -- the forced annexation of Montenegro, -- or for having manifested in some way their disapproval of the action of the Serbs and against this unheard of violation of the laws which rule the civilised world. Finally, some of these prisoners have been deprived of their liberty for having taken part in the insurrection against the Allied Army despoiling our people of their liberty, army of which the troops formed part and were the mandatories.
The state of these patriots and their families is desperate, since the latter have already been deprived for five years (3 years of Austrian captivity and 2 of Serbian) of their heads and of their support, and live in the most cruel misery, reduced to imploring public charity and besides, every kind annoyance and humiliation.
In July last, 80 of these poor people who were detained in an improvised prison at Cettigne, were driven by despair and suffering to seek safety in flight. Taking advantage of an oversight of their keepers, the prisoners rushed the door, but the sentinels received them with the points of their rifles, and killed 23 of them "like hares" as the Serbian Commander at Cettigne expressed it. Amongst the dead was the former Sub-Prefect Simo Krivokapitch. Twenty wounded were finished with the butt ends of their rifles by the furious Serbian soldiery, and the rest succeeded in escaping to the mountains and joining the insurgents. They still continue, together with the entire Montenegrin people, to struggle heroically against the inconceivable iniquity imposed on our country by these barbarians of the XXth Century.
But the bloody government of the Prince Regent of Serbia (this reigning house has, as is well known, a traditional leaning toward blood) does not seem satisfied with all these crimes and cruelties, and in these last days has betrayed the patriots to the Military Tribunal of Podgoritza and Cettigne, accusing them of the crime of High Treason. At the same time, General Vechovitch with his young son, detained in the prison of Belgrade, are called to account for the same "crime" before the tribunal in the Serbian capital. (It is a question, here, of the same Montenegrin General who, in 1916 and 1917, sustained a guerrilla war against the Austrian army of occupation which, on the score of reprisals, hanged his young and innocent brother, student of equity, and imprisoned his old father and two young daughters. This crime provoked, then, the just indignation of the whole civilised world.)
The Royal Government of Montenegro fears, not without reason, that the Serbian Government, encouraged by the systematic disinterestedness of the Great Powers towards the poor victims, which nothing can justify, will go the length of letting them be condemned and executed even.
To avoid fresh crimes being added to the long series which has bathed our unhappy country in blood, the Government of the Kingdom of Montenegro has the honour to remind the Great Powers of the following:
1. Montenegro is a sovereign and independent State. It is recognized as such by the Governments of all the Great Powers. Consequently, its citizens cannot, under any circumstances, be arraigned before the tribunals of a foreign State -Serbia- for high treason. The fact that Serbia proclaimed, toward the end of 1918, the annexation of Montenegro, does not in any way change the judicial position of Montenegrin citizens towards Serbia, since this annexation was effected not only by force, and against the will of the Montenegrin people, but was also annulled by the decision of the Supreme Council on the 13th January 1919, which acknowledges the right of Montenegro, as a sovereign State, and against the demand of Serbia, to be represented at the Peace Conference by a delegate.
The Montenegrin citizens are, toward the Serbian authorities and army of occupation, from the judicial point of view in the same situation as they were towards the Austrian army of occupation since, although there has been no formal declaration of war between Montenegro and Serbia, war has actually existed since the month of November, 1918. The Government of the Kingdom of Montenegro has had the honour to show to the Peace Conference and to the Governments of the Great Powers its point of view on this subject, and has proved, in the first volume of its Memorandum of 5th March 1919 ("Montenegro before the Peace Conference" - The actual situation of Montenegro, pages 5-11) the existence of this war.
It results clearly that the Serbian authorities and army of occupation cannot, in any case, pursue, and still less judge Montenegrin citizens for the crime of high treason towards Serbia and its King, because their position, from the judicial and international point of view, is that of prisoners of war.
2. In the month of November 1918, when the French Government, in the name of the Great Powers, prevented His Majesty the King and the Government of Montenegro from returning to their country, and thus rendered the restoration of Montenegro impossible, the Government of the Republic gave the Government of Montenegro in exchange, sure guarantees that the Allied troops would respect the sovereignty of the Montenegrin State and the liberty of its people.
These same guarantees had been reiterated by His Excellency M. Pichon in his letter of the 4th November 1918, when he was Minister for Foreign Affairs of the French Republic, as well as in those of His Excellency M. Poincare of the 24th November 1918, addressed to His Majesty the King of Montenegro.
These two letters have been published in the first volume of the Memorandum of the Montenegrin Government, of 5th March 1919.
Taking its stand on the facts and the guarantees above mentioned the Royal Government has not ceased to protest against the crimes and the illegal proceedings of the Serbs in Montenegro, and to beg the Governments of the Great Powers to have their own engagements respected. Unhappily, all its appeals and protests have been in vain, although the Great Powers have had, from different and absolutely impartial sources (for instance, the report of His Excellency the British Minister to the Vatican; the reports of different Allied missions to Montenegro, etc.) the opportunity of assuring themselves than an asiatic terror reigns in Montenegro and that the people only aspires to recover its ravished liberty.
Encouraged by the intentional disinterestedness of the Peace Conference and the Governments of the Great Powers, the Serbian Government has not stopped to choose the means to annihilate the insurrection and stifle the rising by which the Montenegrin people manifests its discontent at the annexation by force of its country (the documents prove that thousands of houses were burned, as many properties pillaged, hundreds of citizens shot and women violated, as set forth in the official publication entitled: "Documents on the Serbian atrocities in Montenegro", mentioned above).
As we have already said, all the Montenegrin citizens were imprisoned, either because they would not recognise the forced annexation of Montenegro and the destruction of its sovereignty, and tried to protest against this international crime, or because they defended with arms, as was their duty, the sovereignty of their country. The Montenegrin patriots who are arraigned today before the Serbian Military Court, have attempted to defend, or have defended only that which the highest representatives of France, in the name of the Great Powers, solemnly guaranteed to Montenegro.
The Royal Government of Montenegro takes the liberty of drawing the attention of the Governments of the Great Powers of the Allies to the contradiction between their attitude towards Montenegro and that of the agents executing their orders. Whilst the High Allied Governments enter into written engagements and solemn guarantees of the restoration of Montenegro, the Serbian Army which was under the orders of General Franchet d'Esperey, kills and imprisons the Montenegrin citizens because they dare to defend what Great European Powers promise their country through their official representatives: just as there is a striking difference between the attitude of the officials of the Great Powers in the matter of the Aaland Islands and their manner of acting towards Montenegro. In the former question, where some Aaland citizens had been arrested by the Finnish Government because of their Swedish manifestations, the Governments of the Great Powers, basing themselves on the fact that the fate of the Aaland Islands, although occupied by the Finnish Army, had not yet been decided, undertook a demarch towards the Finnish Government in order to have the prisoners liberated.
It should be remarked in this connexion, that the Aaland Islands have not been, up to the present, and are not now -- as is the case with Montenegro -- an independent State, but an integral part of Finland or, formerly, of the Russian Empire. Consequently, the Finnish Government had incomparably more reason to pursue the Aaland citizens for their Sweedish manifestations, than the Serbian Government has to martyrise the citizens of its ally Montenegro.
In consideration of the foregoing, the Government of Montenegro has the honour to beg the Government of the Great Powers to:
a) Cause their own engagements guaranteeing the sovereignty of the State and the respect of the liberty of the Montenegrin people to be respected.
b) Order the Serbian authorities and army of occupation to immediately evacuate the territory of the sovereign State of Montenegro.
c) Put an immediate stop to the pursuit of imprisoned citizens by the Serbians, without waiting for the evacuation of Montenegro, and order them to be set at liberty.
If the Great Powers wish to continue wrapping themselves in silence and do not desire, even now, to give their benevolent attention to this demand based on justice, right and international morality, as well as on the solemn written guarantees above mentioned, the Government of Montenegro appeals to the humanitarian sentiments of the members of the Governments of the Great Powers, begging them to remember that the Montenegrin prisoners have wives and children who, deprived for five years of their support, live in the greatest and most terrible misery and are condemned to succumb to illness and hunger.
The Royal Government also takes the liberty of begging the High Governments of the Great Powers not to forget that these unhappy victims were in captivity in the concentration camps of the Austro-Hungarians for three years, because their country had voluntarily taken up arms from the very first, to defend Serbia against Austro Hungarian aggression and to fight so as to assure the triumph of the famous device of the Allies: "For Right and Justice". It is cruel, it is inhuman to see these same men, not only prisoners of those for whom they sacrificed themselves, but also insulted and tyrannised over, they and their families, by those who were the cause of their losing their country, of which they must again defend the honour and the liberty. The sufferings of these martyrs would be alleviated if it was possible to find in universal history so striking an example of injustice and disloyalty.
In making this last protest, and this appeal to the humanitarian sentiments of the Governments of the Great Power of the Allies, the Montenegrin Government considers itself disengaged from all responsibility before God and Humanity for the consequences which will supervene in the case of their again being refused a hearing.
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