Amnesty: A blessing in disguise? Making good use of an important mechanism in peace processes

A majority of peace agreements today contain crucial elements related to governance and security, social and economic issues, as well as justice and reconciliation. Justice and reconciliation, however, are particularly sensitive not only because they often involve significant political, legal and strategic dimensions (who will be prosecuted or be granted amnesty?), but also because of the highly emotional issues and responsibilities associated with interpreting the rights and wrongs in a conflict.

In Amnesty: A blessing in disguise?, released today by the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD), Pierre Hazan addresses the heated debate between peace and justice in the resolution of armed conflicts. His paper explains that the developments of International Criminal Law, Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law in the last three decades, has changed and nuanced the approach to the question of justice. While the range of permissible amnesties has been reduced, what becomes the best course of action regarding justice, amnesty and reconciliation when mass violence occurs? How can one balance the pursuit of stability with the pursuit of justice, while continuing to remain within the parameters of the law? The publication examines these difficult questions, highlighting that the establishment of objective and transparent criteria for amnesty, as well as the elaboration of the conditions for those who benefit, could help build the legitimacy and raise the public’s degree of acceptance of amnesty.

Using a range of examples and case studies, Hazan demonstrates that amnesties (1) have always been, and will always be, an essential factor in the development of peace processes; (2) may have radically different objectives and can be as destructive as they are constructive, depending on the context; and (3) may take different forms, whether legal or not.

About the author:

Pierre Hazan is a Senior Adviser on Transitional Justice at the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue. He has advised international organisations, governments and armed groups on questions related to justice, amnesty, reparations, truth commissions and international humanitarian law and human rights. He has worked closely with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and collaborated with the United Nations in the Balkans. He has experience in many conflict zones in Africa, the Balkans, the Middle East and Europe and has published extensively on issues of peace, justice and reconciliation.

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