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The duty to prosecute and the status of amnesties granted for gross systematic human rights violations in international law : towards a balanced approach model

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dc.contributor.advisor Botha, Neville en Rakate, Phenyo Tshenolo Keiseng en 2009-08-25T10:50:04Z 2009-08-25T10:50:04Z 2009-08 2004-11-30 en
dc.identifier.citation Rakate, Phenyo Tshenolo Keiseng (2009) The duty to prosecute and the status of amnesties granted for gross systematic human rights violations in international law : towards a balanced approach model, University of South Africa, Pretoria, <> en
dc.description.abstract This thesis examines the status of amnesties and the duty to prosecute gross and systematic human rights violations in international law. The thesis begins by distinguishing amnesty from other related concepts, such as impunity, pardon and statutes of limitations and so on. Unlike these related concepts, amnesty aims to address major social or political crises in society, such as to resolve an armed conflict, allow the return of political refugees or bring about peaceful political transition. Amnesty is linked to the duty to prosecute, because it is so often in direct conflict with international law norms and standards on the duty to prosecute and to compensate victims of human rights violations. Before the First World War, amnesty was a well-established customary practice. Even where a peace treaty was silent on the mater, amnesty was implied. Compensation was also part of the regime of peace treaties, but not followed as consistently as amnesty. This practice changed dramatically after the First and Second World Wars, because, in a break with the past, the victors did not consider themselves to be on the same level as the vanquished. This resulted in the abolition of the traditional practice of granting amnesty and the demand rather that those responsible for aggression be prosecuted and compelled to pay compensation, as was the case with Germany. Since 1948, with the adoption of the United Nations' Charter, and other international human rights treaties, the power of states to grant amnesty gradually became constrained by the obligation to prosecute perpetrators of gross human rights violations and to pay compensation to the victims of war crimes. Nevertheless, this phenomenon did not put an end to the practice of states granting amnesty for gross human rights violations. Internal armed conflicts during and after the end of the Cold War, with no victors and no vanquished, made amnesty an inevitable option. A considerable number of states continue to utilise amnesty as a device for peace and reconciliation, and they have granted amnesty for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. In customary international law, there is a gap between the actual state practice and the existence of the customary norm creating a duty to prosecute. As a result, the status of the so-called "palatable amnesties" (à la South Africa), often granted as part of a truth and reconciliation process, still remains unclear in international law. This is further exacerbated by the inconsistent practice of the United Nations as the main depository and sponsor of human rights instruments. South Africa and Sierra Leone are used as case studies to illustrate this inconsistency in both state and UN practice on the status of amnesties in international law. As a result, the study proposes a balanced approach model, which is an attempt to strike a balance between accountability, political transformation and social stability in transitional democracies. The balanced approach model proceeds from the premise that the international criminal justice system is not flawless and, therefore, it is important to acknowledge its limitations, such as the lack of enforcement agencies, difficulties in the collection of reliable evidence and a lack of resources to prosecute. In terms of the model, consideration is given to (i) the need to respect the legitimacy of the political process that gives rise to the granting of amnesty; (ii) the amnesty must be proportional to the crimes committed and must be rationally connected to the aims of achieving peace and national reconciliation, the interests of justice, compensation for victims; and finally (iii) the general commitment of the state that grants amnesty to respect international law obligations, which includes the implementation of international obligations as part of municipal law and treaty monitoring obligations as preconditions for the amnesty to pass muster in the balanced approach model. In conclusion, the study proposes model Policy Guidelines on Amnesties Granted for Gross and Systematic Human Rights Violations in International Law for the Assembly of States of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to take note of, and to commend to states and international courts and tribunals, leaving its content to be taken up in the normal processes of the application and development of international law. The status of the Guidelines is that of a code of conduct or guide to practice. In that sense, the Guidelines do not have the character of a binding legal instrument and will serve as the basis for the development of sound principles of international law on amnesties. en
dc.format.extent 1 online resource (vii, 406 leaves)
dc.language.iso en en
dc.subject Policy Guidelines en
dc.subject Balanced-Approach Model en
dc.subject Truth and Reconciliation Commission en
dc.subject Transitional Democracies en
dc.subject Rome Statute en
dc.subject United Nations en
dc.subject International Law en
dc.subject Duty to Prosecute en
dc.subject Human Rights Violations en
dc.subject Amnesty en
dc.subject.ddc 341.48
dc.subject.lcsh Human rights
dc.subject.lcsh Civil rights
dc.subject.lcsh Amnesty
dc.title The duty to prosecute and the status of amnesties granted for gross systematic human rights violations in international law : towards a balanced approach model en
dc.type Dissertation en
dc.description.department Constitutional and International Law en L.LD en

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