Date of this Version


Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Details

Submitted Version.

Wilson, P. (2010). Do normal people commit genocide? Observations from the Cambodian trial of 'Duch'. Psychiatry, psychology and law, 17(4), 495-502.

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2010 HERDC submission. FoR Code: 170100

© Copyright The Australian and New Zealand Association of Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, 2010


This article is written from the perspective of a forensic psychologist and criminologist who observed the recent trial of Duch, the commandant of S-21, the prison where up to 14,000 men, women and children were systematically interrogated, tortured and then murdered during the reign of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime. It focuses on what the trial revealed about Duch's personality and notes the absence of any form of psychopathology or mental illness in his psychological profile. Duch, however, like many other middle-ranking officials involved in major human rights abuses, may well have distinct personality characteristics. This finding lends weight to the view that an individual's involvement in genocide and other related crimes is best understood as a complex interaction between the situation in which people find themselves during times of war or civil conflict and their personality characteristics.



This document has been peer reviewed.


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