Are Amnesties Acceptable and Durable? The Conditional Support Among Victims in Five African Countries and Its Implications



David Backer,
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

FSI Contact

Michael Lopez

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.


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