Transitional Justice in Post Conflict Societies: Underscoring the Debates on Amnesty versus Victims’ Rights

Joe Edet, B.E. Kooffreh


This research underscores the debates on amnesty versus victims’ rights as confronted by States undergoing the process of transitional justice in the aftermath of armed conflicts. The incidences of non-international armed conflicts in recent decades have given rise to numerous strategies for attaining peace in fractured societies. The nature of the peace agreement adopted and the transitional justice institutions established vary according to a great number of factors, including the type of conflict conducted and its participants, perceptions of victimisation, as well as expectations of reconciliation among former opponents.  Amnesty has been the most popular transitional justice mechanism for the past four decades, particularly in the context of civil war. States justify the use of amnesties by claiming that they are successful in enticing armed actors to demobilise, enter negotiations, and sign on to peace agreements, and are thus an important tool to secure peace. Many legal commentators, human rights activists and victims of violent conflicts on the other hand, have heavily criticised the grant of amnesty on legal, ethical, and moral grounds, maintaining that victims’ rights to justice is a necessary precursor to peace, and without it, peace would merely be a brief interlude between conflicts. It has been observed that, there are moral and ethical considerations militating against prosecutions where they would likely lead to political instability and further loss of life, hence the dependency on amnesty. This work recommends that amnesty laws should provide for adequate reparation packages, and be enacted through democratic procedures in order to ensure that the victims’ affected by the crimes have a role to play in determining the country’s response in the aftermath of atrocities following violent conflict, hence promoting a sense of moral justification, and desire for the grant of amnesty by the victims.

Keywords: Transitional Justice, Amnesty, Victims, Post Conflict

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ISSN (Paper)2224-3240 ISSN (Online)2224-3259

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