Amnesties, Accountability, and Human Rights

Amnesties, Accountability, and Human Rights

Amnesties, Accountability, and Human Rights

Amnesties, Accountability, and Human Rights

Synopsis

For the last thirty years, documented human rights violations have been met with an unprecedented rise in demands for accountability. This trend challenges the use of amnesties which typically foreclose opportunities for criminal prosecutions that some argue are crucial to transitional justice. Recent developments have seen amnesties circumvented, overturned, and resisted by lawyers, states, and judiciaries committed to ending impunity for human rights violations. Yet, despite this global movement, the use of amnesties since the 1970s has not declined.

Amnesties, Accountability, and Human Rights examines why and how amnesties persist in the face of mounting pressure to prosecute the perpetrators of human rights violations. Drawing on more than 700 amnesties instituted between 1970 and 2005, Renée Jeffery maps out significant trends in the use of amnesty and offers a historical account of how both the use and the perception of amnesty has changed. As mechanisms to facilitate transitions to democracy, to reconcile divided societies, or to end violent conflicts, amnesties have been adapted to suit the competing demands of contemporary postconflict politics and international accountability norms. Through the history of one evolving political instrument, Amnesties, Accountability, and Human Rights sheds light on the changing thought, practice, and goals of human rights discourse generally.

Excerpt

We have all agreed to no longer discuss the old wounds,
and the parties have resolved to build a new Aceh in an
atmosphere of peace and security, and in the context of
the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia.

On 15 August 2005, representatives of the Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, GAM) and the government of Indonesia signed the Helsinki Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). Brokered by the former president of Finland, Martti Ahtisaari, the comprehensive peace settlement signaled the formal end to almost three decades of violent civil conflict in the Indonesian province of Aceh. in the years that have since elapsed, the Aceh peace process has been widely heralded as a great success story. the negotiated peace continues to hold, democratic elections have taken place without serious incident, and human rights abuses have abated. As Hamid Awaluddin, the Indonesian government’s chief negotiator during the Helsinki process, proudly proclaimed, “Aceh today is place of peace. Guns are silent. Women no longer become widows because of political violence. Children freely develop their dreams to have a brighter future because they can attend schools. the economy is running well. Social interactions are uninterrupted. the people of Aceh have already elected their own leaders through free, democratic and fair local elections.” Yet beneath the jubilation and rounds of welldeserved congratulations, deeper concerns remain about the continuing lack of accountability for human rights violations perpetrated during the course of the conflict. As the Aceh Reintegration Board (BRA) estimates, the Acehnese civil war claimed as many as thirty-three thousand combatant and civilian lives through lethal combat operations, arbitrary killings, public extrajudicial executions, and forced disappearances. Many others were subjected to arbitrary arrest, torture, rape, and other forms of violence. As Faisal Hadi, the executive director of the Human Rights Coalition (Koalisi . . .

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