The Question of Amnesty: Balancing Truth and Justice Essay

The Question of Amnesty: Balancing Truth and Justice Essay

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Amnesties and the Views of Victims
For many victims of violence, human rights advocates and many others affected by human rights violations, amnesties represent the basest of pragmatic accommodations with former despots, murderers, and torturers. At first thought, amnesties do not give the impression of working at the victim’s favor but for the benefit of political leaders, elites and the perpetrators themselves. When societies accept amnesty, victims assume a position of forgetting the past actions of military and political power for the concept of forgiveness. Rights such as truth and justice are sacrificed for political stability. Where amnesties deny victims their rights to truth, justice, and reparations, they can potentially aggravate the victims’ suffering by shrouding the impunity cast by a blanket amnesty and denying victims full recognition of their suffering. The choice for transitional governments addressing past crimes is often framed in a false dichotomy: peace verses justice. This however, is not the case.
Treating peace verses justice as polar ends of a spectrum assumes positions in extremes of entirely forgiving and forgetting the past through blanket amnesty laws for the sake of reconciliation or pursuing retributive justice against every perpetrator of human rights violations at the risk of disestablishing delicate political transitions. This paper will argue that amnesties are proactive incentives toward peace, justice and truth, not simply exclusive toward one over another. Despite the potentially damaging consequences of amnesty laws for victims and the frequent condemnation of amnesties as a denial of victims’ rights, there are examples from countries such as Uganda of civil society groups lobbying i...


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...an, Payam. "Are International Criminal Tribunals a Disincentive to Peace?: Reconciling Judicial Romanticism with Political Realism." Human Rights Quarterly 31 (2009): 624-54.

Cronin-Furman, Kate. “Managing Expectations: International Criminal Trials and the Prospects for Deterrence of Mass Atrocity” in The International Journal of Transitional Justice. Vol. 7, No. 3 (2013): 434-454.

Mallinder, Louise. "Can Amnesties and International Justice Be Reconciled?" The International Journal of Transitional Justice 1.2 (2007): 208-30.

McEvoy, Kieran. Journal of Law and Society: Amnesties in Transition: Punishment, Restoration, and the Governance of Mercy. 3. 39. New York: Cardiff University Law School, 2012. 243. Print.

Vinjamuri, Leslie. “Deterrence, Democracy, and the Pursuit of International Justice.” In Ethics and International Affairs 24:2 (2010): 191-211.

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