Amnesty in International Law

By Ben Chigara
Longman / Pearson Education
March 2002
ISBN: 0-582-43793-8
205 Pages
$135.00 Hardcover


In this polemical book, the author presents a rigorous legal analysis of national amnesty laws -- often called transitional or transformative justice -- that seek to exculpate human rights violators from liability for criminal conduct under both national and international law.
The issue is examined from several perspectives--that human rights are inalienable property rights, vested only in the individual, which no state can nullify without demonstrating transfer of title of that property from the individual to the state itself; that generally accepted treaty norms and principles of customary international law deny the legality of amnesties offered under national law; of conflicting legal traditions, where the idea of national amnesty laws is counter to the dominant positive human rights law tradition; that current state practice of acquiescing with some national amnesty laws, and challenging others, points to the development of a new norm of customary international law on the matter.

A model is developed for distinguishing legally sustainable national amnesty laws from unsustainable ones the VANPAJR test. The author concludes that any scope of national amnesty laws to expunge criminal or civil liability of human rights violators is ultimately unsustainable under international law.

Ben Chigara is a lecturer in International Law at the University of Warwick and has previously lectured at the University of Leeds and Oxford Brookes University.

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