Are Amnesties Acceptable and Durable? The Conditional Support Among Victims in Five African Countries and Its Implications
Anu Kulkarni, CDDRL
Date and Time
May 18, 2010 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
Open to the public.
RSVP required by 5PM May 17.
Goldman Conference Room
Encina East, E101
Transitions from conflict raise hard questions about
accountability for past violations.
Criminal prosecutions and other sanctions are increasingly prevalent,
but amnesties remain common. Some
argue the latter are essential concessions to secure and sustain peace, given
the threat of violent backlash from those potentially subject to repercussions,
who typically seek to insulate themselves from liability. Meanwhile, a conventional wisdom is
that those who suffered harms want punitive justice and will tend to reject
amnesty. Backer and Kulkarni evaluate these claims
using original data collected since 2002 via surveys of over 2,800 victims of
war and repression in the diverse contexts of Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra
Leone and South Africa. Our
initial finding is unexpected: similar majorities of the respondents in each
country actually approve of amnesty.
Yet the backing is practical, ambivalent and qualified. Most view amnesty as necessary to avoid
further conflict, albeit unfair to victims. This concern can be mitigated if perpetrators are subject to
various forms of restorative and reparatory justice. The willingness of many respondents to acquiesce to amnesty
also coexists with a strong desire for accountability. In addition, unparalleled panel survey
data shows that such acceptance can decline dramatically over time, due to
policy actions and inactions. The
analysis suggests the appeal of conditional amnesties of limited scope, backed
by follow through on means of redress, including prosecutions.