The French Prosecution at the IMTFE: Robert Oneto, Indochina and the Rehabilitation of French Prestige
The French participation in the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE) is best known for the dissenting opinion of Justice Henri Bernard, who questioned some of the basic legal assumptions underpinning the trials when they came to an end. This chapter claims that the French case for the prosecution, led by Robert Oneto, also deserves some attention, and argues that the French case, described by legal scholar Yves Beigbeder as flimsy at best, aimed to justify the French recovery of colonial control in Indochina, and to remove once and for all the stain of collaboration of the representatives of the Vichy government in Indochina between September 1940 and March 1945. Using archival sources, the chapter traces how Oneto prepared his case, placing it in the context of French attempts to recover international prestige as a colonial power in the wake of the Second World War. It argues that the audience for Oneto’s case was the Allies and the world at large, not just the Japanese accused in the dock. Minimal and short-lived as it was, the French participation in the punishment of defeated Japan was a crucial moment in the attempt to recover postwar France’s image in the Far East.
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