Rule-of-law Tools for Post-conflict States


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This tool identifies core principles that should guide United Nations personnel when confronted with draft amnesties that may be inconsistent with international law and United Nations policy. The first chapter defines amnesties, describes their use and distinguishes them from other legal measures that bear some similarities to amnesties but which are not addressed in this tool. Chapter II summarizes the principal rules of international law and United Nations policy that should guide the consideration of amnesties. Both of these chapters include examples of amnesties from many countries to illustrate the rules of international law and United Nations policy that are applicable when assessing a proposed amnesty. Chapter III considers the relationship of amnesties to processes of transitional justice. Finally, chapter IV provides further guidance to practitioners who may encounter questions when seeking to apply the legal principles summarized in the tool to ambiguous situations in the field.

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An amnesty, as used in the tool, refers to legal measures that have the effect of (a) prospectively barring criminal prosecution and, in some cases, civil action against certain individuals or categories of individuals in respect of specified criminal conduct committed before the amnesty’s adoption, or (b) retroactively nullifying legal liability previously established.

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