Hangman’s Perspective: Three Genres of Critique following Eichmann
The Oxford Handbook of International Criminal Law (Kevin Jon Heller, Frédéric Mégret, Sarah Nouwen, Jens David Ohlin and Darryl Robinson, eds.), Forthcoming
30 Pages Posted: 31 Mar 2019
Date Written: March 5, 2019
This chapter identifies three perspectives for thinking and criticizing mass atrocity trials, through an analysis of three non-legal sources. First, through an engagement with Hannah Arendt’s writing on the Eichmann trial, it discusses the rule of law genre of critique, in which mass atrocity trials are constantly suspected of becoming “show trials.” Second, it turns to Shoshana Felman’s work on the same trial, to identify a genre of critique premised on an experience of catharsis, in which the trauma of atrocity’s victims is alleviated (constituting post-atrocity political community). Third, it analyzes The Hangman, a 2010 film about Eichmann’s executioner, who suffered trauma following the hanging the convict, illustrating the unacknowledged risks of wielding the violence of criminal justice. Based on this “hangman’s perspective”, the chapter suggests that mass atrocity trials must be assessed in light of the questions: what transnational allocation of such risks do such trials rely upon? What preexisting inequalities, economic, ethnic, and other, determine the roles different people will end up playing in trials? At times, the need to enforce criminal justice makes some of us seem worthy of sacrifice.
Keywords: International Criminal Law, Punishment, International Law, Human Rights, Political Theory, Film
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