Deals with the Devil? Conflict Amnesties, Civil War, and Sustainable Peace

International Organization, Forthcoming

68 Pages Posted: 3 Jun 2017 Last revised: 13 Nov 2017

Date Written: September 11, 2017


Do legal amnesties for combatants help end civil wars? International policy experts often take it for granted that amnesties are needed to bargain with rebels and prevent future fighting. However, a large number of amnesties are followed by continued fighting or a return to the battlefield. What, then, are mechanisms that make amnesties effective or ineffective? This article uses a disaggregated dataset of all amnesties enacted in the context of internal war since 1946 to evaluate a bargaining theory of amnesties and peace. Testing hypotheses about conflict patterns using models that account for selection, I find that (1) only amnesties passed following conflict termination help resolve civil wars, (2) amnesties are more effective when they are embedded in peace agreements, and (3) amnesties that grant human rights violators immunity have no observable pacifying effects. These policy-relevant findings represent a new breakthrough in an ossified “peace v. justice” debate pitting security specialists against global human rights advocates.

Suggested Citation

Dancy, Geoff, Deals with the Devil? Conflict Amnesties, Civil War, and Sustainable Peace (September 11, 2017). International Organization, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: or

Geoff Dancy (Contact Author)

Tulane University ( email )

United States

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