The attacks on 9/11, the invasion in Ukraine, the rise of the Islamic State, the genocides in
Srebrenica, Rwanda, Cambodia and Nazi Germany are all incredible acts of human cruelty.
They make us wonder: who are the perpetrators of these crimes and what drives them?
These questions will be discussed with Nicola Quaedvlieg (as host), Alette Smeulers(as fixed guest) and other well-knownscholars within the field.

Episodes: see: //

Season 1:
(1) Perpetrators of evil
Who are the perpetrators of mass atrocities? Are they pure evil sadists who are mentally
disturbed or rather ordinary people who are terribly and terrifyingly normal as Hannah Arendt
suggested when seeing the trial of Adolf Eichmann? In this episode Alette Smeulers will discuss
her research and findings on perpetrators of mass atrocities and will focus on all the different kindof people who get involved in genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and terrorism.

(2) The men pulling the strings
Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Pol Pot, Slobodan Milosevic and Vladimir Putin: they are the leaders at
the top of authoritarian, dictatorial and violent states. Who are they and what is their role in the
perpetration of mass atrocities? In this session we discuss these questions with Dr. Maartje
Weerdesteijn from VU University who studied the role of dictators in the perpetration of mass
atrocities and the manner in which the international community can potentially mitigate these
crimes. The episode starts with a discussion highlighting that democratically chosen leaders are
not necessarily less dangerous than dictatorial ones

(3) Violent ideologies
Terrorist groups like the Islamic State and regimes like Nazi Germany often justify their crimes
through their ideology. Did they really believe they did the right thing or was ideology used as an
excuse to commit evil? In this episode, we discuss the role of ideology in mass atrocities together
with Dr. Pieter Nanninga from the University of Groningen. He is an expert on terrorism and
studied, among other things, short films that suicide terrorists made prior to their attacks

(4) Obedience, Conformity, and Groups
What is the role of obedience in mass atrocities? Do people just blindly follow orders? How
important are groups and what about conformity? In this session we discuss what we can learn
from social-psychology when studying the perpetrators of mass atrocities. We do so together with
Maria Ioannou who is a social-psychologist of the University College in Groningen.

(5) Adolf Eichmann and the devoted warrior
Adolf Eichmann was one of the main executioners of the genocide during the Second World War.
He is the personification of the banality of evil, the famous phrase Hannah Arendt used to
describe him. In today's session, we discuss Eichman and others like Duch, the director of the
Tuol Sleng Prison in Phnom Pen in Cambodia during the genocidal reign of the Khmer Rouge
together with Dr. Thijs Bouwknegt from the NIOD

(6) A Booming Business
Trading weapons, selling hostages and privatizing armies: war is a booming business. But how
big is the role of money in mass atrocities? Together with Annika van Baar, who is an assistant
professor at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, we discuss this question. We’ll try to find out the
profitability of human rights violations and analyze situations ranging from those involving Nazi
Germany and the Wagner group to companies like Facebook and Shell

(7) Victims as perpetrators
The distinction between perpetrators and victims of mass atrocities may seem clear. However, in
reality, some people are both victims and perpetrators at the same time. In this episode, we
discuss two such examples, namely that of Dominic Ongwen and Ans van Dijk. What is their
story? Can they be blamed for their crimes? And how should criminal law account for such
cases? We do so together with Professor of Law Mark Drumbl

(8) The morals of a psychopath
Not all perpetrators are normal. Some are narcissists or psychopaths. In today’s epsiode, we
mostly focus on this latter group, specifically in relation to their conscience. Do psychopaths have
one? How does it affect their actions? Are people born as a psychopath or are psychopaths
products of their environments? Marijana Vujosevic is a university lecturer of moral and political
philosophy at the Institute for Philosophy and helps us find the answers

(9) The rules of the Israel-Hamas war
Attacking a music festival, killing civilians, and bombing hospitals. They are all horendous
happenings in the war between Hamas and Israel. Are all of them clear violations of international
law or is the truth more complicated than that? In this episode, we discuss the war with professor
Marcel Brus from the University of Groningen. We discuss the polarization of both sides, what is
needed to stop the war, and the rules that have to be followed during the

(10) Putin, Russia, and the ICC
The international criminal court has ordered an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir
Putin, but for what exactly? And how likely is it that he will actually face charges? In today’s
episode, we discuss these and related questions with Sergey Vasiliev. He is an expert on
international law from the University of Amsterdam. He argues that it is unlikely that Putin will be
prosecuted by the ICC soon, but that the court still plays an important role in the war in Ukraine.