Show Less
Restricted access

A History of Political Trials

From Charles I to Charles Taylor

John Laughland

The modern use of international tribunals to try heads of state for genocide and crimes against humanity is often considered a positive development. Many people think that the establishment of special courts to prosecute notorious dictators represents a triumph of law over impunity. In A History of Political Trials, John Laughland takes a very different and controversial view. He shows that trials of heads of state are in fact not new, and that previous trials throughout history have themselves violated the law and due process. It is the historical account which carries the argument. By examining trials of heads of state and government throughout history – figures as different as Charles I, Louis XVI, Erich Honecker, Saddam Hussein and Charles Taylor – Laughland shows that modern trials of heads of state have ugly historical precedents. In their different ways, all the trials he describes were marked by arbitrariness and injustice, and many were gross exercises in hypocrisy. Political trials, he finds, are only the continuation of war by other means. With short and easy chapters, but the fruit of formidable erudition and wide reading, this book will force the general reader to re-examine prevailing opinions on this subject.
Show Summary Details
Restricted access

8 Creating Legitimacy: the Trial of Marshal Antonescu


The trial of Marshal Ion Antonescu, Conducător (leader) of Romania from 1940 to 1944, took place in less than two weeks in May 1946, as the Nuremberg trials were still continuing in Germany. Antonescu was found guilty and shot on 1 June 1946.

Marshal Antonescu had become head of the Romanian government in September 1940 in much the same way as Marshal Pétain had in France – as a result of national disaster. King Carol, who had established a royal dictatorship before the war, had tried to balance between the Nazis and the Western Allies. His policy collapsed when, as a result of the terms of the secret protocol to the Molotov–Ribbentrop pact signed on 23 August 1939, Romania’s northeastern province of Bessarabia was invaded by the Soviet Union and annexed in August 1940. At the same time, the Vienna diktat imposed by Hitler caused part of Transylvania to be ceded to Hungary. The southern Dobruja was ceded to Bulgaria.

This triple loss of territory precipitated a crisis: King Carol made Marshal Antonescu prime minister with full powers on 4 September 1940. Antonescu, who had fought in the Balkan wars in 1912 and 1913 and then in World War I, had been military attaché in Paris and London; he promptly deposed the corrupt and unpopular king, on 6 September 1940, and appointed his son, King Michael, in his place. Romania joined the Axis and helped invade the Soviet Union in June 1941,...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.

Or login to access all content.