The Persistence of Amnesties in World Politics: Adopting and Resisting Anti-Impunity Norms in Peace Agreements

Stream: Panel 36 - International Relations: From Words to Deeds in Global Governance? 
Date: Tuesday, 27 September 2016
Time: 2.00 pm – 3.30 pm


Despite increasing acceptance of global norms against impunity for human rights violations and the United Nations’ 1999 prohibition on the use of amnesties as bargaining tools in peace negotiations, amnesties remain a persistent feature of peace agreements and peace processes. Drawing on agentic constructivist accounts of norm diffusion, this paper argues that although moral entrepreneurs have played a significant role in generating new anti-impunity norms and, in some key instances encouraging their initial uptake, their ability to bring about deep and lasting normative change during peace processes has been limited. The result has been the emergence of a significant disjuncture between articulated normative commitments and actual practice concerning the use of amnesties for human rights violations during peace processes. This paper argues that underpinning this disconnect between words and deeds is a fundamental disagreement over the theorized relationship between amnesties, peace and justice. It demonstrates that underpinning the persistence of amnesties for human rights violations and resistance to anti-impunity norms is the abiding belief that in some contexts, amnesties remain the necessary price to pay for peace. That is, it argues that as long as amnesties remain conceived as a means of achieving peace, acceptance of the UN’s anti-amnesty norm will remain superficial.


Renée Jeffery (Presenter), Griffith University
Renée Jeffery is a Professor at the School of Government and International Relations at Griffith University.