Amnesty for Atrocities? The Rule of Law Denied

84 Pages Posted: 20 Feb 2020

Date Written: September 20, 2013


Addressing gross violations of human rights by amnestying their perpetrators is paradoxical in transitional justice. Can post atrocity societies re-establish the lost rule of law by turning blind to their violent past? Can the rule of law reign while simultaneously bending to threats of disrupting violence? Threatened with violence, amnesties may become tempting, along with the lost promise that henceforth, the rule of law applies’.

This dissertation argues that amnesty laws enacted in the wake of transitions to shield perpetrators of gross human rights violations from punishment are destructive to the rule of law. Ethics of responsibility requires weighing the implications of shielding transgressors of the human’s most dignifying rights from the prosecutions on the long-term viability of the rule of law. It sits uncomfortably within the rule of law principle that when crimes committed are radically evil, that amnesty laws are advocated. Neither the passage of time nor enforced amnesias proved successful alternatives to justice. Decades later, amnesties were overturned in favor of accountability. Late justice becomes then not only bittersweet to victims, but equally detrimental to rule of law principle.

Keywords: Amnesty laws, gross human rights violations, international crimes, rule of law, transitional justice, international law, post transitional justice, Latin America

Suggested Citation

Baker, Hajar and Baker, Hajar, Amnesty for Atrocities? The Rule of Law Denied (September 20, 2013). Available at SSRN: or

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