Genocide and sexual atrocities: Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem and Karadžić in New York

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Abstract

International law has recently recognized that sexual atrocities can be acts of genocide. This precedent was pioneered through a landmark lawsuit in New York against Radovan Karadžić, head of the Bosnian Serbs (Kadic v. Karadzic, 1993-2000), a case in which I played a central role. I argue that we may situate this development philosophically in relation to Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. She aims to secure a better understanding of genocide than was achieved at the Nuremberg Trials (1945) and at the Eichmann trial (1961). Arendt claims that these trials were limited by formalism because they applied familiar paradigms onto these new experiences in a manner that obscured what was distinctive about them and that demanded original thinking and a new paradigm. Nuremberg obscured genocide by miscasting it as a traditional "war crime," a problem that the Jerusalem court exposed but could have better clarified. Through a first-hand account, I show how we too had to secure a new paradigm by treating the facts on their own terms and coining the crime as "genocidal rape." We had to wrest this paradigm from a prevailing approach that also formally applied the category of "war crimes" onto these experiences in a way that obscured them and interfered with justice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-144
Number of pages28
JournalPhilosophical Topics
Volume39
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy

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