n Conflict Trends - The peace-justice dilemma and amnesty in peace agreements

Volume 2007, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1561-9818


Since the mid 1970s, at least 14 states on four continents have declared amnesty, or enacted amnesty laws immunising past regimes from accountability and liability. Various problems and dilemmas related to amnesty have characterised African conflict and its resolution, particularly since the late 1990s. Packaged into post-conflict peace agreements, amnesties are ceded by war-weary parties and often endorsed by an international community keen for peace. Impunity in peace agreements such as the Lomé Accord 1999 (Sierra Leone), the Comprehensive Peace Agreement 2005 (Sudan) and, currently, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni's offer of amnesty for peace to rebel leader Joseph Kony, highlights the dilemma that amnesty presents. While peace agreements offer a unique window to resolve past issues and lock in a framework for human rights, this opportunity is frequently lost and tensions often arise at the nexus between justice, human rights and consolidating peace; or peace on condition of impunity at the expense of justice. Is impunity for past crimes a pragmatic response to end conflict or an unjust compromise, sacrificing justice for peace? This article unpacks the complex dilemma of amnesty in African peace agreements.

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