The Grand Old Men of the League of Notions
Author: Bertil A. RENBORG
Pages: 1 to 11
Creation Date: 1964/01/01
What they achieved. Who they wereBertil A. RENBORG
Former chief of the Drug Control Service of the League of Nations
Before the curtain of time descends and obscures the work of the League in the field of narcotic drugs and before most of those who were connected with this activity have disappeared from the scene - there are not too many left - it is fitting to put on record here what these pioneers did and who they were. It is and always was recognized that control of narcotics was one of the most successful activities of the League. In fact, in the short span of 20 years - 1920-1940 - the League brought order where there was chaos, blazed a new trail in international law, created a veritable international administration and established practically universal co-operation among States. Although no further progress was possible during the second world war, narcotics control was maintained by the League secretariat with both sides in the conflict and with the neutrals, either from headquarters in Geneva or from temporary offices in Washington, D.C. Two of the international organs - the Drug Supervisory Body and the Permanent Central Opium Board - continued to carry out their duties under the conventions as far as possible in the circumstances. It is further interesting to note that national authorities, trained in national and international control, to a very large extent, maintained their internal systems and their international collaboration in spite of very serious problems following in the path of war. It was due to all these circumstances that the United Nations, at the end of the war, was able to take over narcotics control as a going concern where the League had left off.
The honour of having started the campaign against narcotic drugs belongs - in the pre-League time - to the American Bishop Charles H. Brent of the Philippines who, in 1906, drew the attention of President Theodore Roosevelt to the deplorable opium situation in the Far East. This led to the meeting of the Shanghai Commission in 1909 and further to The Hague Convention of 1912.
The first world war brought about a recrudescence of the abuse of narcotics, and at the end of the war the Allied Powers found it necessary to promote international co-operation in the campaign against the evil. It was thus that the covenant entrusted the League of Nations with the general supervision over the execution of agreements with regard to "... the traffic in opium and other dangerous drugs" (article 23 c). This decision was largely due to the initiative of Sir Malcolm Delevingne of the British Home Office - one of the Grand Old Men - who was a member of the British delegation at the peace conference at Versailles, and of whom more will be heard later on. The first assembly of the League in 1920 set up as an advisory organ to the Council the advisory committee on traffic in opium and other dangerous drugs, usually referred to as the Opium Advisory Committee.
When the Opium Advisory Committee approached its task, the narcotics problem was to all practical purposes terra incognita. There was The Hague Convention, which, however, did not come into a more general application until the peace treaties had been ratified. In fact, they contained an article under which ratification of the treaties was "deemed in all respects equivalent to the ratification of" The Hague Convention. This may be considered an interesting innovation in international law - one of many in the drug field. The Hague Convention was the first instrument on the subject, and as such did not and could not go very far in international collaboration. It did contain a set of general principles, which were very valuable and which have stood the test of time, and are even today the pillars of the control system. It did constrain governments to maintain an effective domestic control over the narcotic traffic - including exports and imports - but there was no international supervision or machineryn for co-operation among States. Furthermore, in certain cases the provisions of control were substantially weakened by such expressions as "parties to use their best endeavours, etc." In its work, the League saw to it that its narcotic treaties contained well-defined and binding obligations for the parties. There was to be no choice for parties to apply or not apply the principal provisions. Failure would expose a government to public criticism in the first place, and secondly to possible sanctions.
Through the League secretariat the Committee from the outset organized fact-finding "expeditions" in order to obtain basic data, on which to build its control system. Such data were sadly missing when the League began its work. In these circumstances, the Committee had to employ the empirical method, attacking the most acute problems first, pending more concerted planning. The most pressing problem in the early 1920s was the international trade, which, in spite of the provisions of The Hague Convention, was then the main source of the illicit traffic. Thus, the Committee already at an early date recommended that governments control imports and exports by application of the so-called export authorization and import certificate system which later was incorporated in the 1925 international Opium Convention (hereinafter referred to as the Geneva Convention). The situation was deplorable. A constant stream of powerful narcotics (morphine, heroin, cocaine) went uncontrolled by export from legally established factories in western and central Europe. When official statistics came in, the secretariat of the League undertook a complete analysis of the import and export trade, and proved in a document prepared for the 1931 conference on the limitation of manufacture that at a very conservative estimate of not less than one hundred tons of narcotics (about 220,000 pounds) had passed to unknown destinations (i.e., into the illicit traffic) from countries with licensed factories during the years 1925-1929.
In the early years the Committee was beset by certain political controversies and was the subject of violent criticism. The composition was at the time rather one sided with particular emphasis on the opium-smoking problem in the Far East. The original members, chosen by the Council of the League, were the representatives of the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, France, India, China, Japan, Siam (now Thailand) and Portugal, all of which except China had opium-smoking monopolies in the Far East. The Committee was gradually extended to include representatives of all interests, producers, manufacturers and purely consumers. In the end, the Council declared that any country, whether a member of the League or not, which had an interest in the narcotic problem, would on application be ad- mitted to membership of the Committee. In the end, 24 countries were members. The United States, although not a member of the League, joined the Committee in January 1923 in an unofficial and advisory capacity after a pressing invitation by the League Council. Controversies arose at the time of the 1924/25 conference, and the controversial point was the question of a limitation of the production of raw materials and the manufacture of narcotic drugs to the world's medical and other legitimate needs. The American delegation, headed by Stephen G. Porter, member of the House of Representatives, had instructions not to sign any document resulting from the 1924/25 conference unless it provided for such limitation. When the conference refused to entertain the American suggestions in this matter, the United States withdrew from the conference, and they have not become a party to the Geneva Convention.
The main criticisms levelled against the Opium Advisory Committee in the early days were twofold: too slow progress and apparent lenience in the matter of suppression of opium-smoking in the Far East and towards the state opium monopolies deriving considerable revenues from the sale of prepared opium to, and thus permitting the continued enslavement of, their peoples to this vice. The Committee's defence on the first point was partly that progress was only possible on the basis of the material facts of the problem and partly that they could not go further than governments were prepared to follow. On the second point, it realized that suppression could only be achieved gradually; the alternative being - as long as there were abundant supplies of raw opium - that the smokers would be driven into the hands of illicit traffickers. The Committee took the view that it was not good policy to substitute one evil by another much worse. Another argument was that facilities for the treatment of smokers deprived of opium were not available and could not be created in a short time for financial and other valid reasons. The criticisms came from various well-meaning private organizations, and they found an effective, voluble advocate in the Director of the Anti-opium Information Bureau in Geneva, Mr. A. E. Blanco. He was a Spaniard, who had served many years in the Chinese Maritime Customs. The Bureau was supported by private American funds. His honesty of purpose was beyond dispute. His press releases, which usually appeared before the sessions of the Committee, were very much to the point and caused great irritation to the older members of the Committee. Blanco's accusations were not always justified or fair, but there is no doubt that they had a stimulating effect on the Committee and other organs of the League. Blanco was a striking figure, speaking perfect English and French, sartorially dressed with white spats and a well-trimmed white moustache. One of his merits was to keep the narcotics problem alive for the general public, thus obtaining their support. He was no less violent in his attacks on the secretariat than on the Committee. Requiescat in pace.
The controversies within the Committee itself and the criticisms from the outside gradually disappeared for lack of ammunition; it can be stated that as from the early 1930s the political issues as well as the violent criticisms had disappeared. The Committee had developed into an expert, technical body, which enjoyed the confidence of the superior League organs, the members of the League and the general public. Similarly, the secretariat had achieved expert knowledge and enjoyed great authority - both in the Committee itself and in the outside world. It is a fact that the Committee, as time went on, relied more and more on its secretariat for the preparation of its work and for important tasks such as the preparation of a convention for the limitation of the production of raw opium. Here the Committee limited itself to guidance and supervision, while all the substantial work was left in the hands of the secretariat with the aid of special experts. It was not the fault of the secretariat or of the Committee that the second world war started when a draft convention was ready in all its essentials. If nothing came out of it, this was due to largely changed circumstances after the war and to the fact that the United Nations, when it took over drug control from the League, chose to disregard the League draft and to preceed along other lines. If nothing else, this meant long delay in arriving at an international instrument for the limitation of the production of raw opium. Such as the results are, they were achieved by the 1953 Opium Protocol and by the Single Convention of 1961. The Protocol came into force only in March 1963.
The following are the milestones of the system of control built by the League of Nations:
Control of international trade and international supervision. The Geneva Convention of 1925.
Limitation of manufacture and regulation of distribution. The 1931 Convention.
Campaign against the illicit traffic. 1936 Convention for its suppression.
Limitation of the cultivation of the opium poppy and of the control of the production of opium. Draft articles of 1939.
Gradual suppression of opium smoking. 1925 and 1931 agreements.
System of reports by governments to international bodies.
Domestic control over manufacture, trade and distribution.
It did take the Committee only a few years (1921-24) to prepare the ground for the first League instruments on narcotics control which were adopted at the two conferences in Geneva in 1924/25 - namely, the Geneva Convention of 1925 and the 1925 agreement for the suppression of the manufacture of, internal trade in and use of, prepared opium ( viz., opium for smoking). The main features of the Geneva Convention were that it enforced an effective control of the international trade by means of the above-mentioned export authorization and import certificate system, and that it created a special supervisory organ, the Permanent Central Board (PCOB) - a body of impartial, non-governmental experts with the main task of continuously watching the course of the international trade in order to prevent escapes into the illicit traffic and to prevent any country from becoming a centre of illicit traffic. It had the power under certain circumstances to recommend sanctions in the form of an embargo on exports of narcotics to a country (whether party to the Convention or not) which was accumulating excessive quantities of drugs or which was in danger of becoming a centre of illicit traffic. Here was another innovation in international law. Parties were called upon to apply sanctions to states non-parties. The Geneva Convention also strengthened the provisions of The Hague Convention in regard to domestic control and replaced vaguely-formulated measures by definite obligations. It came into force on 25 September 1928, and quickly proved entirely effective in curtailing illicit traffic. It was not long before the Committee was able to state (1933) that "the sources of supply (of drugs) in western Europe, as a result of the close control now exercised, appear to be rapidly drying up." In fact, this statement was based on the view expressed with great satisfaction before the Committee by the representative of the United States, Mr. Stuart J. Fuller.
The Committee did not rest on its laurels; there was considerable pressure from private organizations the general public for the League to proceed with the next step - limitation of the production of raw materials and the manufacture of narcotics. A scheme for limitation of the production of raw materials was to be put off for some time, but the Committee concluded that the time was ripe for limitation of manufacture - i.e., it found that governments were disposed favourably to such an undertaking. This being so, it began studies and preparatory work, and was able to draw up a draft convention on this subject which was submitted to the 1931 conference in Geneva under the able guidance of the Belgian Senator Louis de Brouckère as Chairman. When the draft came up for discussion at the conference, the Committee got a shock. The draft was inter alia based on dividing world manufacture between the then existing manufacturing countries under a quota system. The majority of the delegates were unalterably opposed to a system which would give a virtual world monopoly to the large manufacturing countries, and simply discarded the Committee's draft. It was at this point that one of the grand old men, M. Gaston Bourgois of France, stepped in, and in collaboration with the Japanese delegation almost overnight produced a new scheme, the most essential points of which were incorporated in the 1931 Convention for Limiting the Manufacture and Regulating the Distribution of Narcotic Drugs. Like the Geneva Convention of 1925, the 1931 convention is one of the cornerstones of the international control system. Through its system of binding government estimates of drug requirements for medical and scientific needs, an effective limitation of world manufacture to these needs was quickly achieved. In fact, it did soon occur that world manufacture in a year was below the medical and scientific requirements, and that the deficit had to be taken from the stocks which the convention provided for. Estimates were to be examined by a new international organ, the Supervisory Body, which had to issue annually, and also at other intervals, statements showing the estimates for each country and territory in the world, the totals of estimates for each of them for each drug, and further, the maximum world manufacture permitted as shown by the estimates. The scheme should be universally applied to be effective. In order to achieve this, the Supervisory Body was given the task of itself furnishing estimates for countries and territories for which they were not furnished by the competent authorities within the prescribed time, and this applied independently whether the country concerned was a party to the convention or not. The system is very flexible inasmuch as the convention allows governments in case of changed circumstances to revise or change the ordinary estimates by so-called supplementary estimates, provided the reasons are explained. These are dealt with by the Supervisory Body in exactly the same way as the ordinary or annual estimates. The Permanent Central Board was given the task of supervising the manner in which parties carried out their obligations under the convention. In cases of failure, the Board was given the power of recommending to other parties to cease exports of drugs in accordance with the provisions of the 1925 Convention.
However, in relation to the international trade, the Board was given additional and even stronger power than the recommendation of an embargo. If the information at the disposal of the Board (quarterly export and import statistics of certain notifications concerning exports to non-parties to either the Geneva or the 1931 Convention) should show that the quantities exported or authorized to be exported would exceed the totals of the estimates for the importing country, the Board shall issue a mandatory embargo which precludes parties to the 1931 Convention to authorize any exports to the country in question during the year, when the excess was notified to the parties.
The commentary to the 1931 convention, which was prepared and published by the opium traffic section of the League Secretariat (L. of N. doc. C.191.M.136. 1937.XI) describes the control established by the convention which extends through three stages as follows:
"In the first stage, the international plan incorporating the estimated drug requirements for the ensuing year for every country and territory in the world (for every drug in use) is drawn up by the Supervisory Body. The plan is legally binding on all the contracting parties, both in their relations with each other and with nonparties.
"The second stage involves the supervision by national as well as international organs (OAC, PCOB, and DSB) of the year's programme of licit manufacture and trade during the year. In general, it may be said that a detailed supervision, with strict accountancy to an international authority at each of the principal stages in the year's operations, is exercised over the drugs in their passage through authorized channels from the licensed factory to the consumer. In the case of imports and exports, which are examined each quarter, the consequence of exceeding estimates by importing an excessive quantity is the application, in the words of the Assembly of 1934, of an 'embargo of world-wide scope which, so far from remaining a dead letter, has already been applied on several occasions during the past year. '
"In the third stage, an international audit of the drug accounts of each nation takes place. The PCOB reviews the general position of manufacture and trade by comparing the statistics of manufacture and trade with the estimates contained in the year's plan. The Convention prescribes the action which the Central Board may take in the event of this international audit revealing serious irregularities."
From an economic point of view, the convention pioneers new territory - that of a planned economy on a world-wide scale. It regulates a whole industry throughout the world, from the point at which the raw materials enter the factory to the point at which they finally reach the legitimate consumer. The only missing link was at the time the limitation of the production of the raw materials. The convention not only embodies the principles of a planned economy; it further creates, as pointed out by the Assembly in 1934, a real international administration. It provides a workable international system clearly defined in a series of precise and binding international obligations, for the quantitative and qualitative limitation of the manufacture of narcotic drugs. Limitation is quantitative, as the total quantity which may be manufactured in the world is fixed in advance. It is further qualitative because it distinguishes in its treatment between different classes of drugs, the main criteria being the different degrees of danger.
Let us quote some appreciations of the 1931 convention: In 1934 the League Assembly described it as embodying "a bold conception without precedent in the history of international relations and international law." At the closing meeting of the conference, Senator de Brouckère made the following statement: "This is an immense piece of work. Consider there will now be a central account for the drug traffic. No country [i.e., country party to the convention] may manufacture, import, export or convert drugs without making a return. Each must furnish estimates and, at the end of year, give an accurate account of what has been done. Each government's returns will be checked and discussed. A body sitting at Geneva will have the necessary authority to question governments.... Nothing of the kind has ever been attempted before.... If a similar system could be established at Geneva for far more dangerous drugs and far more murderous weapons, we men would have made a considerable advance."
In the some thirty years of application, the 1925 and 1931 Conventions have proved to be very effective instruments due to their machinery, adaptable to all conditions, the universality of their application and faithful adherence of governments in co-operation with each other and with the international institutions. Legitimate manufacture, trade and distribution quickly came under very satisfactory control and international supervision. Escapes from licit channels were reduced to thefts, falsifications of prescriptions, accommodation by small numbers of unethical doctors, etc. It must be admitted, however, that the problems of prevention and treatment of drug addiction were yet to be dealt with in depth, largely due to lack of sufficient knowledge of its ecology and etiology. Had it not been for the illicit traffic, clandestine manufacture and unlimited production of the raw materials, drug addiction would have been reduced to a medical and police problem of man- ageable proportions. The League carried on an intensive campaign against the illicit traffic, which will be dealt with now. To deal with drug addiction, illicit traffic, clandestine manufacture and the unlimited production of the raw materials are the objectives of the new United Nations instruments - i.e., the 1953 Opium Protocol and the Single Convention of 1961.
We have already referred to the fact that the illicit traffic and the international trade in the 1920s were the most serious problems. Simultaneously with the building up of the general control system, the Committee already at an early stage devoted a great deal of attention to the organization, ramifications and extent of the illicit traffic. Its first aim was to obtain as detailed information as possible, and for this purpose it asked governments to provide this information in their annual reports and in special seizure reports. The campaign developed slowly but steadily until it culminated in the 1936 Convention for the Suppression of the Illicit Traffic. At its sessions, the Committee regularly discussed the trends of the illicit traffic as revealed by government information, and included an account in its reports to the League Council. The information received was further transmitted first annually, and later quarterly, to all police authorities through the governments. The Committee was aided by special assessors and experts on police matters; from 1931 there was a permanent sub-committee on seizures and illicit traffic. As an illustration of the fearless methods employed by the Committee in its campaign, the following cases may be mentioned. At the manufacturers' conference in London, which preceded the 1931 conference, a southern European country surprised all concerned by claiming a manufacturing quota for morphine and heroin. It had - it was stated - in fact, during the first six months of 1930, exported to various destinations over 2 tons of morphine and over 4 tons of heroin. No trace of these enormous quantities could be found in the statistics of the legitimate import trade. They had all disappeared into the illicit traffic. The background was found to be the following: After the coming into force of the 1925 convention, some manufacturers in western Europe, who found their lucrative export business severely curtailed, had moved lock, stock and barrel to the country in question, which, unaware of the danger, had granted them licences to manufacture narcotics. There was at the time no control over the disposal of the drugs. The matter was taken up by the Committee in public meetings after the country concerned had been asked to attend. It was in fact represented by its foreign minister, who in no uncertain terms was severely condemned for the irresponsible actions of the competent authorities. The effects of this public exposure were very salutary. The manufacturing licences were immediately cancelled, and the country adhered to the drug conventions. Similar discoveries were made shortly after in regard to two other south European countries. The Committee repeated its action, and the unsatisfactory position was remedied. It is a fact of significance that the three countries concerned were all at the time producing opium. After these events and as a consequence also of the coming into force of the 1925 and 1931 conventions, regularly licensed factories were unable to flood the illicit market. The organizers of the illicit traffic then resorted to clandestine manufacture in factories and laboratories. Such were discovered in large numbers in various parts of the world, and of course suppressed by police action. It was and still is noteworthy that this illicit manufacture more often than not was located in places in or near countries where there was a plentiful supply of raw materials, in the first place opium. Clandestine manufacture of cocaine was at the time nil or insignificant, as was the illicit traffic in cocaine. The Committee carried on a relentless campaign against clandestine manufacture, repeatedly warned governments to keep their eyes open, and suggested, for instance, control of acetic anhydride, which is a product used in the transformation of morphine into heroin. Information at the Committee's disposal showed that during 1929-1936 no less than 54 clandestine factories had been discovered (16 in 1934 and 17 in 1935). Most of them were, however, of little importance, being small laboratories with simple apparatus.
National legislations provided very uneven penalties for illicit traffic. While in certain countries these amounted in serious cases to many years' imprisonment with hard labour, in others the offenders escaped with insignificant fines, which had no deterrent effect. The discrepancies were sometimes glaring: in one place the death penalty, and in another, across an artificial frontier, a small fine. In repeated resolutions the Committee urged governments to provide sufficiently severe penalties. The problem was solved by the 1936 Convention, under which parties are obliged to punish severely, particularly by imprisonment or other penalties of deprivation of liberty, acts contrary to the international drug conventions.
The 1936 Convention was the outcome of the experience gained by the campaign against illicit traffic. It had been found necessary to elaborate a special international instrument embodying rules having the force of international law for the suppression of illicit traffic, such as severe, uniform penalties; provisions preventing traffickers from escaping punishment because they were no longer, or had never been, within the reach of the authorities of the country in which the illicit acts were committed; making drug offences extradition crimes; arranging for punishment of persons having committed offences abroad; admitting foreign sentences for the purpose of establishing habitual criminality and recidivism; and organizing close collaboration between police authorities in different parts of the world. The first draft was presented to the League by the International Criminal Police Commission, which at the time had its headquarters in Vienna (now in Paris). The Convention also provides for punishment of conspiracy, intentional participation, attempts and preparatory acts. Each party has to set up a central office for the campaign against the illicit traffic, and these offices shall be in close, direct contact with corresponding organs in other countries.
The 1936 convention has not received the same universality as the general League conventions. The reason is that a great number of countries where the illicit traffic does not exist or is of only small importance have not found it warranted to go to the trouble of adhering to and putting the convention into effect in their countries. At present (September 1964) only 24 States are parties to it.
The consequence of the activity of the Committee and of the police collaboration organized by it was that drug trafficking became an international crime, relentlessly pursued everywhere. In this connexion the following incident seems worth recording: One day in 1936 or 1937 the author of this article received a visit in his office from a very charming, well-dressed lady, who spoke perfect French. She complained that when travelling - and she often went to see her children being educated in France - she had difficulties in getting visas, her baggage was searched meticulously at all frontiers, and police often interrogated her in her hotels. I had not heard her name, so I asked for it. It was that of a Greek banker, at the time one of the biggest traffickers in Europe, the leader of a powerful gang. She admitted that he was her brother-in-law, but that her husband was entirely innocent of any illegal acts, and in fact had nothing to do with his brother's activities. I replied to the lady that there was nothing anybody could do to help her, that drug trafficking was an international crime, and that the simple fact that she bore the name of a notorious trafficker was enough to make her suspect and to receive the attention of customs and police authorities wherever she went in the world.
In time the League secretariat - nolens volens - became a sort of clearing house in the campaign against the illicit traffic. In fact, the secretariat received hints in regard to illicit traffic operations under way. The information was transmitted to the customs or police authorities concerned, and in a number of cases led to large seizures of narcotics and to the breaking up of smuggling organizations. This was perhaps a somewhat extra-curricular activity, but no objections were raised.
The work of the Opium Advisory Committee in the field of limitation of raw materials has been fully described in the author's article in the Bulletin on Narcotics, vol. XV, No. 2. Suffice it to say here that by 1939/40 it had produced a draft convention, containing the principal articles which might be embodied in a convention for limiting and controlling the cultivation of the opium poppy and the production of raw opium, and controlling other raw materials used in the manufacture of opium alkaloids. The outbreak of the second world war made it impossible to proceed further. The draft would not only have limited under strict national and international supervision the production of opium to the world's medical scientific and other at the time recognized legitimate needs, but would have guaranteed that sufficient supplies would always be available for these purposes. There were, however, three important aspects of the problem with which the Committee had not had time to deal - namely, the question of the poppy plant (poppy straw) as a raw material, the regulation of raw-opium prices, which it considered a necessary consequence of the limitation scheme, and the mechanism for the international supervision of its application. The most interesting feature of the draft was the setting up of a special international organ with very important functions, the Controlling Authority. It had to examine government estimates of requirements, of areas to be sown with poppy; it had to establish world requirements and the permitted world production, to allot to each producing country the quantities to be produced and to be exported to each destination. It had further wide powers in regard to the level of the regulating stocks, which producing countries were under obligation to keep in order to guarantee that there would always be enough opium available for legitimate needs.
Already The Hague convention provided for the gradual and effective suppression of the manufacture of, trade in, and use of, prepared opium (opium for smoking), with due regard to the varying circumstances of each country concerned. In spite of the Geneva agreement of 1925 and the Bangkok agreement of 1931, which aimed at the ultimate suppression of opium smoking, this was not achieved during the aegis of the League. In 1939 state opium monopolies, supplying prepared opium to smokers, were still maintained in the following countries and territories: Burma, British Malaya, Netherlands Indies, Siam, French Indo-China, Hong Kong, Macao, Formosa and Kwantung Leased Territory. Towards the end of the second world war the United Kingdom, Netherlands and France announced that opium-smoking would be completely prohibited, and the state monopolies abolished in all their Far Eastern territories, which were then under Japanese occupation. These decisions were carried out. More recently legalized opium-smoking was abolished in Thailand and by Portugal in Macao. Today opium smoking remains permitted only in some parts of the Shan State of Burma, where the opium poppy is cultivated to a fairly large extent.
The League did not arrive at agreements regarding the suppression of other non-medical or quasi-medical consumption of opium, the suppression of coca-leaf chewing, or of the abuse of cannabis drugs. These are some of the objectives of the United Nations instruments- namely, the Opium Protocol of 1953 and the Single Convention of 1961, in accordance with special transitional provisions subject to reservations at the time of signature, of ratification or of accession to these instruments.
The Opium Advisory Committee understood at an early stage that it could only carry out its task satisfactorily on the basis of information regarding the narcotics situation in the various countries whether it was a question of the legal or illegal trade. In a series of resolutions and recommendations it asked governments to furnish the indispensable information. This system of reporting was ultimately incorporated in the League conventions and agreements, and thus made an obligation of the parties. The complete statistical reporting, covering all aspects of the drug economy, was introduced in the Geneva convention of 1925. The remainder form part of the subsequent conventions of 1931 and 1936. The two opium-smoking agreements also provided for governmental reports. The reports thus sanctioned were the following (excluding the statistical system): texts of all laws and regulations, promulgated to give effect to the conventions and agreements; annual reports on their working; reports on significant cases of seizures and illicit traffic; names and addresses, etc., of those authorized to manufacture narcotics; and names and addresses of authorities for the issuing of export authorizations and import certificates. All these reports and information served as a valuable background for the work of the Committee. In addition, they were all (except texts of laws and regulations) immediately and integrally communicated by the Secretary-General of the League to all governments whether parties to the conventions or not. In the time of the League, no States were precluded from participating in the campaign against drug addiction and the illicit traffic. Admittedly, the world situation was materially different from what it is today.
International control presupposes, of course, an effective control in the various countries. The Committee saw to it that provisions for such domestic control were introduced in the various instruments. In short, all transactions of whatever kind are under constant government supervision. Nobody can touch narcotics without having state authorization. The ultimate consumer - the sick person - must have an authorization in the form of a medical prescription for all the more dangerous drugs. All those who handle narcotics must make periodical reports to the authorities, and are subject to official inspection. Each government must have a central administration to be responsible for the control, or failing this, must make arrangements for a co-ordinating agency.
These are in short the main achievements of the Opium Advisory Committee of the League of Nations. In the space available for a single article, it has not been possible to go into more detail or to cover all the important activities in this field. It goes without saying that the Committee devoted a great deal of attention to the problem of drug addiction, but was seriously hampered by the lack of scientific knowledge of the problem. There were discussions regarding the attitude of the law towards the drug addict, and this gave rise to a controversy, which is acute even today - namely, whether the addict is in the first place a delinquent and should be treated as such, or a sick person. The Committee further considered the advisability of anti-narcotics education and propaganda, and took a rather negative attitude except in countries where addiction was very widespread, and except among the medical, paramedical and teaching professions. Limitation of the coca leaf was on the agenda of the Committee, but was temporarily abandoned because of an almost total lack of reliable information on production and abuse. It was also found that conditions then prevailing in the producing countries were hardly conducive to the success of any limitation scheme. Scientific research in regard to cannabis was undertaken by a special sub-committee under the chairmanship of Dr. J. Bouquet, Inspector-General of Pharmacies in Tunis. Finally, mention should be made of the attempts to abolish all manufacture of trade in and use of heroin. In fact, heroin was totally abolished in most countries. The 1931 convention introduced the principle of prohibition, and provided for especially stringent control of exports and imports of this narcotic.
They were a remarkable lot, the members of the Opium Advisory Committee representing their governments - at least, those who were the responsible narcotic administrators in their own countries. Some distant countries were represented by their diplomatic agents in Europe, and they did not perhaps make the same outstanding contributions as the real administrators. In time, however, they became familiar with the work and associated themselves wholeheartedly with the other members. The pioneers were found not only among the membership of the Committee, but also among those of the Permanent Central Board and the Drug Supervisory Body. The inspiration given by the pioneers and the work performed by them merit some record here of their personalities and their contributions. They will be dealt with in approximately the order in which they appeared on the scene of the League. They will be followed by the grand old men of PCOB and DSB.
The most outstanding personality of them all was no doubt the representative of the United Kingdom, Sir Malcolm Delevingne, Assistant Under-Secretary of State of the Home Office, born in 1868. He was one of the principal architects of the whole League control system, and particularly of the 1925 and 1931 conventions. He had a sharp brain in a very small body, and was often very irritable at meetings, since he did not suffer fools gladly. A religious man, he was in private life extremely friendly and courteous. At the outset, critical of the secretariat, he ended up by being our good friend with the greatest confidence in our ability and work. On his retirement from the British civil service, the League could not dispense with his services. He helped the secretariat as an expert in the preparation of the convention on the limitation of raw-opium production and later - specially in London during the war - served on both the PCOB and DSB. The following incident, which occurred during the 1931 Conference, is typical of Delevingne. When the Conference refused to entertain the Committee's draft providing for a virtual monopoly on world manufacture for the then manufacturing countries under a quota system, Delevingne was most offended and withdrew his collaboration. However, he sat through all the meetings, usually reading the London Times. Once when the Conference was struggling with a difficult problem, the Chairman, Senator de Brouckère, addressed Delevingne and said that he with his great knowledge and experience certainly would come to the assistance of the Conference. Delevingne's reply was a curt: "Certainly not." Immediately afterwards the Canadian delegate, Colonel Sharman, sitting behind Delevingne, was heard saying: "Sir Malcolm, your attitude would be much more convincing if you did not read your London Times upside down."
Next on the list comes M. Louis Gaston Bourgois, who represented France on the Committee throughout the whole League period and continued for some years on the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs. Born in 1874, Bourgois was originally a naval officer and served at one time as naval attaché in Japan. His time in Japan resulted in a remarkable published study of Japanese mathematics. Later he came to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and served ultimately as Consul-General in Lausanne. Bourgois was a charming man with great intelligence. He was less interested in details than in the great problems of narcotics. It has already been related how he saved the 1931 conference in a critical situation, and he performed a similar service to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs when the Commission, after several years of work on the limitation of opium production, seemed at a loss. Bourgois then produced a scheme for limitation largely based on the estimates system of the 1931 convention, with the necessary changes. His scheme was in many aspects incorporated in the 1953 opium protocol.
For some years the (British) Government of India was represented by that brilliant financier, Sir John Campbell, previously a high official in the Indian civil service. He also had a sharp intelligence, sometimes combined with biting sarcasm, which did not endear him to some members of the Committee. Campbell had a difficult position, as he had to defend or explain the attitude of his government to the abolition of non medical consumption of opium. The Government of India repeated year after year that the habit was of very long standing as long back as the primitive religious tenets, and that it was neither advisable nor possible for the Government to interfere.
Next there is the representative of the Netherlands, Mr. W. G. van Wettum, at one time head of the opium monopoly in the Netherlands Indies. Van Wettum was a very honest person, who did not beat about the bush, and liked to call a spade a spade. He stood firm on his views and was not greatly influenced by the somewhat unrealistic and idealistic criticism which in those days was directed towards the opium-smoking monopolies. He believed in facing facts and was all for the gradual suppression of opium-smoking. Personally he was very genial, with his baldish head and round, red face. He was replaced by Mr. J. H. Delgorge, former chief inspector of the monopoly in the Netherlands Indies. Delgorge was more flexible in his views than his predessor, very friendly and reliable in his personal relations. He continued for some years as representative of the Netherlands on the Commission on Narcotic Drugs of the United Nations.
One of the more quiet but none the less valuable members was the representative of Austria, Dr. Bruno Schultz, chief of the Vienna city police. His contribution naturally centered mostly on the illicit traffic. He was also connected with the International Criminal Police Commission which, as mentioned, submitted to the Opium Advisory Committee the draft which later became the 1936 Convention.
A brilliant figure who appeared briefly on the Committee was the Italian representative, Senator Cavazzoni, former Minister of Labour. He was very colourful as a personality, and proposed schemes which he defended very ably.
Egypt was well represented by the Englishman Sir Thomas Wentworth Russel Pasha, later Russel Leva, chief of Cairo city police and director of the Egyptian Central Narcotics Intelligence Bureau. Russel Pasha was outstanding in the campaign against the illicit traffic. His annual reports proved valuable sources of information regarding the illicit traffic. It was Russel Pasha who at the time referred to the principal drug traffickers as "the drug barons of Europe ".
When Stuart Jamieson Fuller came to the Committee as the representative of the United States of America in an unofficial and advisory capacity, another colourful and able person was added to that assembly. Fuller was then assistant chief of the Far Eastern Bureau of the Department of State, and had served many years as U.S. Consul in different parts of the world. He soon became one of the leading members, although he did not participate in the voting. Fuller did not hesitate in exposing negligent governments in public meetings without fear and favour. His aim was the defence of his country against illicit traffickers and, on the whole, he viewed Europeans with some suspicion. Like Delevingne he did not suffer fools gladly, and could on occasions display a somewhat violent temper, all for the good cause. The following incident was quite typical: At the end of each session the Committee approved its minutes, which were later printed, after having been edited from the point of view of style by the competent services of the League. This procedure made Fuller very angry, as he considered it as a falsification of the records. On one occasion he is reported to have written on all copies which passed over his desk in Washington, D.C., something to the effect that these records were incorrect and should be given no credence. Fuller was very ably assisted by that " grand old man " Harry J. Anslinger, the first, and for over 30 years, U.S. head of the Bureau of Narcotics of the Treasury Department, and by George A. Morlock of the State Department. Anslinger was and is the great organizer on both the international and national scenes of a relentless campaign against the drug traffickers, from the small pedlars to the heads of powerful gangs. He was instrumental in bringing a part of the League secretariat to Washington during the second world war, and thus made it possible for the League to maintain almost intact the international co-operation in narcotics control during the hostilities. Anslinger's activities fall equally within the period of the League and of the United Nations, where he still serves as the representative of his country. His was a presidential appointment which he kept under both Democrats and Republicans. When in 1962 he relinquished his post as Commissioner of Narcotics at the age of 70, President Kennedy paid him the signal honour of a citation for long and meritorious services. The time has not yet come to write finis to his oustanding contribution in the campaign against drug addiction and the illicit traffic. He holds the view that the Single Convention of 1961 is a retrograde step, and both his government and himself are firmly opposed to its coming into force.
The Committee had the advantage of having three medical men among its leading members. They were Dr. Augusto de Vasconcellos, Portuguese diplomat and statesman, later to become Minister for Foreign Affairs; Dr. Henri Carrière, director of the Swiss Federal Health Service at Berne; and Dr. Withold Chodzko of Poland, former Minister of Health and Director of the Public Health Institute at Warsaw.
There were some members of the Committee who later occupied very prominent positions in their own countries: Mr. Naotake Sato of Japan, later Foreign Minister and now president of the Upper House of the Diet; Professor Careiro da Matta, later Foreign Minister of Portugal and head of its state bank; and His Serene Highness Prince Varnvaidya, now known under the name Prince Wan Waithayakon, and Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand. He has served as permanent delegate to the United Nations and as Foreign Minister of his country.
When Canada was elected to the Committee in 1934, another very colourful figure was added to the membership in the person of Colonel Charles H. L. Sharman. Coming from that famous red-coated organization, The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, he earned his military title during the first world war. Sharman was Head of the Canadian Narcotics Service in the Department of Pensions and National Health at Ottawa. He has now completed almost 30 years of outstanding service on the international scene. Sharman and Anslinger saw eye to eye in most problems and collaborated very closely both in and outside the Committee and later on the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, where they both served as representatives of their countries. Sharman's last post before his final retirement was as member of the DSB, elected by the Narcotics Commission. He was very outspoken and showed neither fear nor favour in his official acts. Persons of his type were very necessary to the Committee, and he has well deserved his place among the Grand Old Men of the League of Nations.
Another brilliant member and charming personality was the representative of China, Dr. Victor Hoo Chi Tsai, diplomat and eminent linguist, at the time director of the Chinese Permanent Office to the League. Dr. Hoo joined the United Nations in 1946 in New York as Under-Secretary-General, and now serves as Commissioner for Technical Assistance of the United Nations. Spain was for some years represented by that great gentleman, academician and man of letters, Don Julio Casares. Sir Malcolm Delevingne's successor was Major W. H. Coles of the Home Office. It was not easy or comfortable to replace the brilliant grand old man Delevingne, but Coles faced the situation with great courage and ability. He very quickly became one of the leading members, and through the years was a pillar of strength both to the Committee and the secretariat. Coles continued to serve on the Commission on Narcotic Drugs until his retirement.
There were also some men behind the scenes. Reference has already been made to George A. Morlock of the United States of America. Mention should also be made of Mr. Shiko Kusama, who for years acted as adviser and expert to the representatives of Japan. After the second world war, Kusama, true to his international outlook, devoted himself to the Japanese Association for the United Nations.
If the Committee had a series of brilliant members, this was also true of the Permanent Central Opium Board and the Drug Supervisory Body. Two names are outstanding: that great American, Herbert L. May, and the no less great Englishman, Leonard A. Lyall. The latter had served for 41 years in the Chinese Maritime Customs under the great Inspector-General, Sir Robert Hart. On his retirement in 1927 he settled in Geneva. His expert knowledge of the Far East and of China in particular was immediately taken advantage of. He was appointed assessor to the Committee, and when the PCOB was set up he was elected a member. His colleagues chose him for the presidential chair, where he remained throughout his service on the Board. For years and until his death he bore with great courage infinite physical sufferings which he did not let interfere with his work. He had great admiration and love for the China he had known and served. His place among the grand old men is undisputable. He organized and carried through the work of the Board with great ability and authority. An incident may be recalled: The author was a candidate for the first appointment as secretary of the Board. During an interview, Lyall asked him whether he thought that the Chinese Government could cope with opium production and smoking in China. The author, who had passed almost six years in China in the Swedish Foreign Service, replied more honestly than diplomatically that he thought so, if they really made up their minds to do it. This answer did not please Lyall, and the appointment went to another old China hand, the Italian Don Ugo Theodoli.
If anybody deserves to be put in the hall of fame as one of the Grand Old Men it is Herbert L. May, who devoted the major part of his mature life, unselfishly and with great personal sacrifices, to the "cause" in the League and in the United Nations. His work and contributions have been fully described and appreciated in a recent article in the Bulletin on Narcotics (Vol. XV, No. 2) by Harry J. Anslinger. Reaching the great age of 87, this year Herbert May left his work in narcotics control to enjoy his well-deserved otium cum dignitate. A great gentleman with a conciliatory attitude, everybody was and is his friend. During the League days, May and his late wife Carry lived first in Geneva and then in Coppet, where they received their friends and kept open house in a refined, cultured atmosphere. Together with Harry Anslinger, May used his influence in making it possible for the League narcotics services to establish branch offices in Washington, D.C., during the late war, and undertook full responsibility for these offices vis-a-vis the U.S. Government.
The members of the PCOB and DSB were less in the public eye than those of the Committee, for obvious reasons. The Board originally held sessions in public, but this disappeared with the war, and was not reinstated. The DSB always worked in private. During the war years these two bodies met in London for regular meetings. The credit for making this possible belongs to Delevingne, May, great Indian gentleman, Sir Atul Chatterjee, then Chairman of the PCOB and at one time Indian High Commissioner in London. In the DSB, in addition to men already referred to, valuable contributions were made by Dr. Carrière of Switzerland and Professor Tiffeneau of France.
This is in short the story of the pioneers, the Grand Old Men of the League of Nations in the campaign against the drug evil. They were a band of able, devoted administrators, diplomats, medical men, police officers and so forth. In the earlier years there was some friction and sharp divergencies of opinion, but they were gradually forged into a homogeneous instrument, working for the good of humanity. They were pitted against unscrupulous traffickers, and at the outset also against powerful financial interests in the drug trade. They can be proud of their achievements and they deserve well of humanity.
This account of the activities of the League of Nations in the drug field would not be complete without some references to the officials in the secretariat who served the Opium Advisory Committee. The first chief was Dame Rachel Crowdy, who up to 1931 was the head of the combined opium traffic and social questions section - a somewhat unusual combination. She, who had the distinction of being the only woman among all these men, was succeeded by Eric Einar Ekstrand, a Swedish diplomat, who came to the League at the request of the then Secretary-General, Sir Eric Drummond, from his post as Swedish Minister to Argentina. When Ekstrand left in 1939, the opium question was separated from the social questions and renamed thc drug control service, with the author as its chief until the League was dissolved in 1946. Among the members of the opium secretariat, mention should be made of the Australian, H. Duncan Hall, for some years the senior member, and the man who prepared the first draft of that excellent document, the commentary to the 1931 Convention; the Austrian, later American citizen Leon Steinig, who served as director of the Division of Narcotic Drugs at United Nations headquarters in New York until 1952, and who recently was elected to the PCOB; the capable, hard-working Frenchman, Pierre Bouscharain, originally a League translator; Vladimir Pastuhov, an able administrator; and B. Celinski from Poland, who was left in charge in Geneva when the others transferred to Washington in 1940, and thus had the responsibility of maintaining the control work on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.