During the Khmer Rouge’s brutal reign in Cambodia during the mid-to-late 1970s, a former math teacher named Duch served as the commandant of the S-21 security center, where as many as 20,000 victims were interrogated, tortured, and executed. In 2009 Duch stood trial for these crimes against humanity. While the prosecution painted Duch as evil, his defense lawyers claimed he simply followed orders. This was just one of a number of parallels between the Duch trial at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal and the Eichmann trial. This presentation focuses on arguments in my recent book, Man or Monster? The Trial of a Khmer Rouge Torturer (Duke, 2016). Specifically, I will reconsider Arendt’s notion of the banality of evil in terms of “the banality of everyday thought” and “effacing conviction.”
Prof. Alexander Hinton is Founder and Director of the Center for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights, Professor of Anthropology, and UNESCO Chair on Genocide Prevention at Rutgers University.