Individuals as Bystanders to Atrocity Crimes

Roland Moerland*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic


This chapter focuses on individual bystanders to atrocity crimes, and it aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the most relevant research on the subject. The first part of the discussion focuses on the question of how to define the bystander and discusses the role that individual bystanders play in atrocity crimes. The second part of the chapter addresses the question of how individuals become bystanders and discusses research that has investigated how the social and psychological features of atrocity situations enable and facilitate bystander behavior. Bystander passivity has crime-enabling and facilitative implications, and it is thus far from innocent. It raises questions about moral and legal responsibility, which are addressed in the third part. Despite the wealth of research on the subject of the individual bystander, several lacunae remain. Therefore, the last section proposes several possible avenues for future research.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Atrocity Crimes
EditorsBarbora Holá, Hollie Nyseth Nzitatira, Maartje Weerdesteijn
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)9780190915629
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Publication series

SeriesThe Oxford Handbooks in Criminology and Criminal Justice


  • atrocity triangle
  • situated positionality
  • bystander effect
  • moral and legal responsibility
  • international criminal justice
  • transitional justice


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