Research Handbook on Transitional Justice
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Research Handbook on Transitional Justice

Edited by Cheryl Lawther, Luke Moffett and Dov Jacobs

Providing detailed and comprehensive coverage of the transitional justice field, this Research Handbook brings together leading scholars and practitioners to explore how societies deal with mass atrocities after periods of dictatorship or conflict. Situating the development of transitional justice in its historical context, social and political context, it analyses the legal instruments that have emerged.
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Chapter 18: Transitional justice and amnesties

Tom Hadden


The reliance on and extent of amnesties following serious internal conflicts is one of the most controversial issues in transitional justice. The campaign against any form of impunity began in Latin America in the 1980s and took root within the United Nations and the wider human rights community in the 1990s. It is now widely claimed that any amnesty that includes international crimes is unlawful under customary international law. However, many of those involved in conflict resolution have questioned the validity and the practical value of these claims. This chapter sets out the pragmatic and legal arguments in favour of a more flexible approach to various forms of amnesty, drawing on the Belfast Guidelines on Amnesty and Accountability produced in 2013 by a group of 18 leading international lawyers and practitioners in the field. The underlying argument is that there are many different obligations under international law and practice, including the duties to find a way of ending serious conflict, to establish the truth of what happened and to prevent recurrence, and that it is often unhelpful to prioritize the duty to prosecute and punish those responsible for war crimes or serious human rights abuses. Amnesties; accountability; Belfast Guidelines

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