Amnesty, Serious Crimes and International Law explores the acceptability of amnesty for serious crimes under international law. Over the last few decades, there has been a growing tendency to consider that international law prohibits the grant of amnesty in respect of certain grave crimes. The question remains controversial, however, since there is no express treaty prohibition and general amnesty laws continue to be frequently passed in post-conflict and transitional contexts. The book begins by tracing the origins of amnesty in ancient civilisations and examining the transition from the practice of extending general amnesties at the end of European wars to the emergence of an accountability paradigm in the aftermath of the two world wars underpinning the current prohibitive stance on amnesties. It then provides a global picture of modern amnesties, the types of contexts into which they are commonly issued and the reasons why they are controversial in modern times. The book analyses the main legal grounds supporting the view that a general amnesty prohibition has emerged under international law, including the duty of states to prosecute international crimes and provide redress to victims of serious human rights violations, recent trends in state practice, and the mandate of international criminal courts. It argues that, while international legal or policy requirements restrict the freedom of states to extend amnesty in respect of serious crimes, or the effectiveness of amnesty laws in preventing the prosecution of such crimes, these restrictions do not add up to an absolute and universal prohibition.
Part One – The Use of Amnesties from Antiquity to Today;
1. Ancient Amnesties;
2. At the War’s End: From the Amnesty to the Accountability Paradigm;
3. Modern Amnesties and Moral Dilemmas;
Part Two – Assessing the Legality of Amnesties in the Contemporary International Order;
4. The Obligation to Prosecute;
5. International Standards and State Practice;
6. The Right to a Remedy;
7. The Mandate of International Criminal Courts;
International law has great relevance in post-conflict contexts, but the complexity of its role, both as a supporting and restraining factor, can be underestimated. This series explores the role of law, and in particular international law, in securing ‘justice’ in post-conflict contexts. The remit of the series extends to matters of law connected to, for example: post-conflict legal reforms and the development of constitutions; the establishment of the rule of law; the place of international organizations in post-conflict; peace-keeping; transitional justice mechanisms (including criminal justice); and discussion of jus post bellum. It also seeks self-reflexive works on notions of post-conflict justice, transitional justice, and similar.