Human Rights Watch: Accountability and Impunity: Afghanistan, Kosovo and Argentina


Adrian Weisel
Dustin Friedman
Laetitia Pactat

Human Rights Watch

In countries emerging from conflict and groping with issues surrounding of justice, there is often a struggle between pursuing war crimes prosecutions and granting amnesties. Perpetrators of war crimes and potential defendants often request, as a condition for a ceasefire or peace agreement, amnesty from prosecution. Victims and the broader community often support amnesties in the interest of immediate peace. Human Rights Watch’s position on this issue is that amnesty in these situations generally does not work, and hinders longer-term peace prospects. In Sierra Leone, Uganda and South Africa, the granting of amnesties (or the failure to follow through on prosecutions), created subsequent problems, and left the issue of justice incomplete and unfulfilled leading to tensions in the local communities.

In the 2008 Spring semester, six Practicum students worked on this issue, presenting case studies on Cambodia, Chile and Mozambique (included as what was thought to be a positiveexample where amnesty has worked). The paper was very well received and generated much discussion at Human Rights Watch.
The Human Rights Watch International Justice division would like to further the study with additional country case studies. Each case study includes background on theconflict, the amnesties that were offered and how those worked out in practice, and theproblems and complications, if any, created by those amnesties, and where theseissues stand now. The potential additional countries could be: El Salvador, Argentina, Afghanistan, Namibia, Sri Lanka, East Timor, Democratic Replublic of Congo, Kosovo, and Haiti.