Amnesties, Accountability, and Human Rights

Amnesties, Accountability, and Human Rights

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 312
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    Amnesties, Accountability, and Human Rights
    Book Description:

    For the last thirty years, documented human rights violations have been met with an unprecedented rise in demands for accountability. This trend challenges the use of amnesties which typically foreclose opportunities for criminal prosecutions that some argue are crucial to transitional justice. Recent developments have seen amnesties circumvented, overturned, and resisted by lawyers, states, and judiciaries committed to ending impunity for human rights violations. Yet, despite this global movement, the use of amnesties since the 1970s has not declined.

    Amnesties, Accountability, and Human Rightsexamines why and how amnesties persist in the face of mounting pressure to prosecute the perpetrators of human rights violations. Drawing on more than 700 amnesties instituted between 1970 and 2005, Renée Jeffery maps out significant trends in the use of amnesty and offers a historical account of how both the use and the perception of amnesty has changed. As mechanisms to facilitate transitions to democracy, to reconcile divided societies, or to end violent conflicts, amnesties have been adapted to suit the competing demands of contemporary postconflict politics and international accountability norms. Through the history of one evolving political instrument,Amnesties, Accountability, and Human Rightssheds light on the changing thought, practice, and goals of human rights discourse generally.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0941-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[vi])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    On 15 August 2005, representatives of the Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, GAM) and the government of Indonesia signed the Helsinki Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). Brokered by the former president of Finland, Martti Ahtisaari, the comprehensive peace settlement signaled the formal end to almost three decades of violent civil conflict in the Indonesian province of Aceh. In the years that have since elapsed, the Aceh peace process has been widely heralded as a great success story.² The negotiated peace continues to hold, democratic elections have taken place without serious incident, and human rights abuses have abated. As Hamid Awaluddin,...

  4. CHAPTER 1 The Politics of Amnesties
    (pp. 21-49)

    Amnesties are instruments of politics. As Louis Joinet, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, wrote in his landmark report on the role that amnesties play in protecting human rights, amnesties constitute “the judicial expression of a political act.”² Where transitional justice is concerned, amnesties thus serve two main functions.³ On an explicit level, amnesties are mechanisms of policy designed to achieve particular sets of political ends. More implicitly, amnesties also serve to “reassert [sovereign] control over the system of domestic criminal law” and, where applicable, international law regarding states’ obligations to prosecute the...

  5. CHAPTER 2 Transitions to Democracy
    (pp. 50-74)

    Although the first amnesty associated with the “third wave” of transitions to democracy was implemented in Greece in 1974, the first significant rise in the popularity of amnesties was focused on the states of Latin America. The 1970s and 1980s was a time of tremendous social and political upheaval in Latin America. In 1978 Colombia, Costa Rica, and Venezuela were the only states classified as democracies in the region.² By 1992, a “protracted burst of democratization” that occurred as part of the global “third wave” saw fifteen of the remaining “seventeen authoritarian regimes … [give] rise to semidemocracies or democracies.”³...

  6. CHAPTER 3 The Pursuit of Truth
    (pp. 75-102)

    As with debates about democratic transitions and the obligation to prosecute the perpetrators of human rights violations, those concerned with the right to truth and its relationship to amnesties were also precipitated by events taking place in the 1970s and 1980s in Latin America. This new emphasis on truth largely came in response to the nature of the repression in Latin America. In large part, there “the military governments did not openly kill their opponents,” but rather made them “disappear.”² Such was the effectiveness of these disappearances that in very many cases the bodies of those presumed to have been...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Ending Violence
    (pp. 103-134)

    Amnesties have long been conceived as an instrument of peace. Employed as a bargaining tool to bring about the end of a protracted period of conflict, in this context amnesties are underpinned by the idea that warring parties and rebel groups may be more willing to negotiate a peaceful settlement of their dispute if they will not face prosecution for acts committed during the conflict. Here the tensions between amnesty and accountability are posed in their most stark terms where the choice does, indeed, appear to be a straight-forward peace versus justice decision. Amnesties designed to end violence are often...

  8. CHAPTER 5 The End of Impunity?
    (pp. 135-169)

    Since the 1980s the legitimate bounds within which amnesties may be granted have been significantly compressed. Where once a permissive understanding of amnesties reigned now stands a highly restricted, conditional understanding of the acceptable limits of the practice. Even where peace is at stake, the notion that no price is too high to pay to see the end of conflict has been replaced, at least in scholarly terms, by a more nuanced view that takes both the immediate and longer term goals of peace into consideration. These shifts have not, however, taken place in isolation but have been coupled with...

  9. CHAPTER 6 The Persistence of Amnesties
    (pp. 170-197)

    In contemporary political practice, the status of existing amnesty laws is bifurcated along distinct historical and contextual lines. On one hand, amnesties no longer afford the perpetrators of serious human rights violations the iron-clad protection they once did. With a range of political actors going to increasing lengths to find ways to circumvent, overturn, and resist existing amnesty laws, some individuals who have lived under an assumed guarantee of impunity now have very good reasons to be nervous about their continued freedom. In particular, in corners of the globe where the justice cascade is entrenched and within international institutions that...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 198-212)

    On 17 December 2010, in the Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid, a twenty-six-year-old street vendor by the name of Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire in the middle of a busy street. His act of self-immolation was a protest against what he viewed as the unjust treatment he had received at the hands of the local police and government officials. That morning the fruit and vegetables Bouazizi was trying to sell were confiscated on the grounds that his did not possess a street vendor’s license. A municipal official, Faidi Hamdi, had allegedly slapped him across the face and spat on...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 213-264)
    (pp. 265-296)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 297-302)
    (pp. 303-306)