Transnational criminal law in transatlantic perspective (1870-1945)

Research Project

Towards a dialogue between the Global North and the Global South

The project, carried out by Valeria Vegh Weis and Karl Härter, explores the transatlantic dimension of transnational criminal law, focusing on the respective relations and activities of European and Latin American actors in the period between 1870-1940. Transnational criminal law is based on bi- and multilateral agreements and treaties, national criminal law as well as expanding international juridical-political discourses and organisations. In addition to covering various types of international, borderless (or cross-border) crimes, it is also manifest in specific transboundary procedures and practices ranging from mutual legal assistance and extradition to police cooperation and expulsion, from informal coordination of actions to formal cooperation of more than one state, institution or actor. The transnationalisation of criminal law was based on the international circulation of law, provisions, principles and ideas by a variety of international ‘actors’ and organisations, ranging from empires, (nation-)states and governments to semi-or non-state actors, experts and practitioners (jurists, police officers, etc.).

Img. 1: Tratado de Extradición y Protección contra el Anarquismo, concluded at the Second Pan American Conference, Mexico, 22 October 1901 – 31 January 1902

From the late nineteenth century onwards, states and experts from Latin America were involved in these developments, not just as recipients of European knowledge and practices, but as vital actors with specific interests in transnational criminal law and transatlantic interaction. The project explores the transatlantic dimension of the transnationalisation of criminal law since the last third of the nineteenth century and investigates transnational criminal law regimes and the global governance of crime between 1870 and 1940.

Img 2: Tratado de extradición entre la República del Paraguay el Imperio Alemán, 26.11.1909 (Reichsgesetzblatt 1915, Nr. 123. pp. 571-582)

These regimes dealt with various transnational crimes such as slave trade, trafficking (humans and drugs), smuggling, piracy, political dissent/violence and illegal migration — activities that were criminalised or labelled criminal activities that affected more than one state/jurisdiction and involved a transatlantic dimension. Research investigates transnational practices as mutual assistance, extradition and police cooperation as well as international discourses and organisations that dealt with matters of transnational criminal law. The analyses applies concepts such as ‘criminal law and security regimes’, ‘critical criminology and criminal selectivity’ and ‘global legal history’.

Valeria Vegh Weis' subproject explores the ‘The transnational criminal law regime on women trafficking (1870–1921): a transatlantic perspective on criminal selectivity’.

The research project was presented and discussed in a workshop.

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