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Legal Dictionary

amnesty law

Definition of amnesty law

Further reading

An amnesty law is any law that retroactively exempts a select group of people, usually military leaders and government leaders, from criminal liability for crimes committed.

Most allegations involve human rights abuses and crimes against humanity.

History

Many countries have been plagued by revolutions, coups and civil war. After such turmoil the leaders of the outgoing regime that want, or are forced, to restore democracy in their country are confronted with possible litigation regarding the "counterinsurgency" actions taken during their reign. It is not uncommon for people to make allegations of human rights abuse and crimes against humanity. To overcome the hazard of facing prosecution, many countries have absolved those involved of their alleged crimes.

Amnesty laws are often also equally problematic to the opposing side as a cost-benefit problem: Is bringing the old leadership to justice worth extending the conflict or rule of the previous regime, with an accompanying increase in suffering and casualties, as the old regime refuses to let go of power?

Victims, their families and human rights organisations-e.g., Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Humanitarian Law Project-have opposed such laws through demonstrations and litigation, their argument being that an amnesty law violates local constitutional law and international law by upholding impunity.

Even though suspects are no longer subject to judicial review under local law, their amnesty does not invalidate international law. With that in mind, the International Criminal Court was established to ensure that perpetrators do not evade command responsibility for their crimes should the local government fail to prosecute.

References:

  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.



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