Anika Seemann (University of Cambridge)

The Challenge of Consistency – Law and Politics in the Norwegian ‘Treason Trials’
My paper is a slightly shortened version of a chapter of my PhD thesis, which analyses the trials of ‘collaborators’ in Norway between 1945 and 1952 (the so-called “treason trials”). These trials were ambitious in scope, as the government-in-exile had criminalised various acts as “treason”, most notably formal membership of the Norwegian fascist party Nasjonal Samling. The treason trials began soon after the liberation, primarily in order to prevent lynch justice, and the government had initially expected the trials to be over by the end of 1945. But before long, the Norwegian authorities were forced to reckon with the fact that the trials would in fact occupy the courts for several years rather than mere months. In this chapter, I analyse a series of modifications made to the institutional and legal framework of the treason trials in 1946 and 1947. These modifications became necessary for a number of reasons: the legal apparatus was struggling with the workload during a period of already scarce resources; the trials were coming under increasing social and political pressure, and the growing distance to the occupation period meant that there was a strong public desire to bring the trials to a conclusion and to look towards the future rather than the past. However, at this time, the majority of cases were still pending and to many policy makers, the inner consistency of the trials demanded that individuals tried later on should not benefit from softening attitudes. This chapter traces various proposals to change the parameters of the trials, and the ways in which policy makers struggled to reconcile quickly changing public attitudes towards punishment of wartime ‘collaborators’ with their own political integrity and the principle of legal consistency.