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The Concept of Amnesty

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Chapter Summary

Amnesty has been applied almost regularly throughout the past five centuries, and has served various political purposes. It has covered different kinds of offences, ranging from mere political delicts to the most serious offences of international concern. The history of modern amnesty may be divided in three time-periods: the pre-World War II period, the period covering World War II trials, and that covering immediate post-World War II conflicts. Although amnesty clauses in peace treaties have decreased since the Second World War, the motives for granting amnesty have not lost their validity. For centuries amnesties have always been granted with the view of facilitating the transition from war to peace, and their motives have differed according to the nature of the conflict. The granting of amnesty has significant consequences on the ability of the judiciary to perform its sovereign task within a given democratic society, namely that of applying the law.

Keywords: amnesty; international humanitarian law; international peace treaties; World War II

10.1163/ej.9789004162310.i-252.10
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