amnesty (ăm´nəstē), in law, exemption from prosecution for criminal action. It signifies forgiveness and the forgetting of past actions. Amnesties are usually extended to a group of persons during a period of prolonged disorder or insurrection. The criminals are offered a promise of immunity from prosecution if they will abandon their unlawful activities. After a revolution or civil war the victorious side will often extend amnesty to the losers; e.g., the United States granted a qualified amnesty to the Confederate forces after the Civil War. An amnesty is distinguished from a pardon, which is an act of forgiveness after the criminal has already been convicted.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Amnesty: Selected full-text books and articles

Democracy and the Case for Amnesty By Alfonso J. Damico Florida Presses, 1975
Rebels with a Cause: The Minds and Morality of Political Offenders By Nicholas N. Kittrie Westview Press, 2000
Librarian's tip: "Amnesties and Pardons" begins on p. 282
Anatomy of a Public Policy: The Reform of Contemporary American Immigration Law By Michael C. LeMay Praeger Publishers, 1994
Librarian's tip: Discussion of amnesty begins on p. 31
Constructing Democracy: Human Rights, Citizenship, and Society in Latin America By Elizabeth Jelin; Eric Hershberg Westview Press, 1996
Librarian's tip: Includes discussion of amnesty in multiple chapters
Ronald Reagan and the Politics of Immigration Reform By Nicholas Laham Praeger Publishers, 2000
Librarian's tip: Chap. 5 "The Immigration Reform and Control Act and the Challenge of Granting Amnesty
Impunity and Human Rights in International Law and Practice By Naomi Roht-Arriaza Oxford University Press, 1995
Justice and Reconciliation: After the Violence By Andrew Rigby Lynne Rienner, 2001
Librarian's tip: Chap. 3 "Spain: Amnesty and Amnesia" and Chap. 6 "South Africa: Amnesty in Return for Truth"
The Inter-American System of Human Rights By David J. Harris; Stephen Livingstone Clarendon Press, 1998
Librarian's tip: Chap. 11 "Resonses to Amnesties by the Inter-American System for the Protection of Human Rights"
The Conscience of the World: The Influence of Non-Governmental Organisations in the UN System By Peter Willetts Brookings Institution Press, 1996
Librarian's tip: Chap. 7 "Amnesty International at the United Nations"
The Politics of Memory: Transitional Justice in Democratizing Societies By Alexandra Barahona de Brito; Carmen González Enríquez; Paloma Aguilar Oxford University Press, 2001
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