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Are Amnesties for Atrocities Sustainable over Time? The Case of Argentina

Oslo, 25 September 2008

Seminar Concept | Programme |  Registration

With the rise of criminal justice for atrocities  since the mid-1990s, much has been said and written on its relationship with peace and other transitional processes. Many of these discussions seem to gravitate toward the conflict between constraining effects of criminal justice on (in particular key) individuals involved in the armed conflict or the oppressive regime in question, on the one hand, and the central role of some of those individuals in peace-making or other aspects of transition, on the other. Many are of the view that the power of these individuals is such that they are needed for the transition to go well; that amnesties for atrocities or similar arrangements may be necessary to secure its success. There has been much debate on this perceived dichotomy between criminal accountability and deliberate shielding from criminal responsibility in the interest of peace or transition.

Some states have introduced legislation amounting essentially to granting amnesty for past atrocities. This seminar considered the Argentine experience and the reasons for which Argentina's amnesty law in the end was set aside by its highest court. Can we draw some general lessons from Argentina as to the long-term sustainability of amnesty for atrocities? Or are the circumstances surrounding the case of Argentina unique? The seminar also considered the status of amnesties for atrocities in international law.

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