Amnesties in the mechanism of transitional justice

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Authors: Andrey Antonov, Oleksandr Yevsieiev

DOI: 10.21128/2226-2059-2019-1-118-133

Keywords: accountability; amnesty; impunity; national reconciliation; pardon; post-conflict settlement; war crimes; переходное правосудие


Based on examples and previous studies, this article attempts to holistically comprehend amnesties as a tool of achieving national reconciliation following internal conflicts (civil wars, coups d’etat, etc.), and their positive and negative impacts on post-conflict state and society. Based on this evidence, the authors propose general solutions to conceptual problems related to the compliance of amnesties with the requirements of international law. A distinction is drawn between such amnesties, pardons, and general amnesties, whereas the authors also offer a classification of amnesties based on various criteria, including ratione temporis, ratione loci, and ratione personae. This article further provides a detailed analysis of the amnesties conducted in Hispanic countries during the so-called “third wave” of democratization. In this respect, the concept of “self-amnesties”, widely used in Latin American countries during the transition to democratic rule, is criticized as contradicting the very purpose of this institution. An attempt is made to construct some universal principles, with which the amnesties should comply regardless of the regional specifics. At the same time, attention is paid to the extremely cautious approach applied by human rights juridical mechanisms when they express their opinions on the legality of amnesties appearing in recent years in many parts of the world. This acknowledges the rejection of post-conflict amnesties as an increasing trend in international law, as such amnesties are perceived as incompatible with the generally accepted positive obligations of the state regarding criminal prosecution and punishment for war crimes and other serious crimes contrary to the commonly accepted norms of international law, including serious human rights violations. The article further discusses the position of the European Court of Human Rights, which emphasized that amnesties can in principle be acceptable only in very limited circumstances, such as if a state can substantiate that it is pursuing a vital interest through amnesty–namely peace and national reconciliation. Other international judicial bodies, particularly the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, also do not stand aside from the assessment of amnesties. This article provides critical analysis of some decisions of the Inter-American Court that related to amnesties in certain Latin American countries. The authors conclude that, being closely related to the overall concept of justice, amnesties inevitably cause conflicting feelings. It is vital for successful amnesties in particular circumstances to strike an optimal balance between state interests and the interests of victims.

About the authors: Andrey Antonov – Candidate of Sciences (Ph. D.) in Law, Chief, Conduct and Discipline Service, UN Mission in Kosovo. Pristina, Republic of Serbia; Oleksandr Yevsieiev – Candidate of Sciences (Ph. D.) in Law, Associate Professor, Higher School of Economics. Moscow, Russia.

Citation: Antonov A., Yevsieiev O. (2019) Amnistii v mekhanizme perekhodnogo pravosudiya [Amnesties in the mechanism of transitional justice]. Mezhdunarodnoe pravosudie, vol.9, no.1, pp.118–133. (In Russian).


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