chapter  1
12 Pages

Historical precedents for multilateral counter-terrorism: Anti-anarchist cooperation and the League of Nations

The origins of multilateral counter-terrorism lie in efforts to suppress anarchist violence in the late nineteenth century. These measures comprised diplomatic initiatives, as well as cooperation among police services. Although such efforts were discussed as early as the 1870s, those initial attempts were not successful and yielded only the unilateral deployment of certain national police services abroad (an approach pursued by Britain, Italy and Russia).1 It took a period of sustained anarchist violence in the 1890s to induce states to consider cooperation more seriously. In this chapter, I trace the emergence of multilateral counter-terrorism through three key developments in the pre-World War II period. The first of these, the 1898 International Anti-Anarchist Conference in Rome, represents the first attempt by states to coordinate law and policy to combat political violence. Despite this, anarchist activity continued and the effort was renewed through the 1904 St. Petersburg Anti-Anarchist Protocol, signed in secret by more than 10 states. The protocol set an ambitious program for cooperation, including the establishment of anti-anarchist bureaus in participating states, rules for expelling anarchists, and norms for communication and information exchange regarding anarchist activity. A reduction in anarchist crimes in the early twentieth century, and the intervention of other pressing events, saw the issue decline in importance on the international agenda. But it re-emerged after 1934 in response to the double assassination of Yugoslavia’s King Alexander and French foreign minister Barthou by a Croatian nationalist in Marseilles. Coordinated efforts this time occurred through the League of Nations and, after a period of negotiation, the members concluded the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of Terrorism in 1937. The convention is novel in that it provides a definition of “terrorism,” a feat not achieved in any subsequent international treaty or resolution. While the convention attracted 24 signatories, only one member (India) ratified it,

meaning that it never entered into force and has the status of a “dead letter.”2