Atrocity, Accountability, and Amnesty in a ‘Post-Human Rights World’?

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Abstract: The end of the Cold War and the political transitions in South America and Eastern Europe in the early 1990s led to significant developments in international law that sought to ensure greater accountability for perpetrators of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. In participating in the formulation of these legal obligations, states consented to limitations on their sovereign power to decide whether to prosecute perpetrators. By the late-2000s, it was commonplace to assert that the ‘Age of Accountability’ had arrived and that amnesties to shield war criminals and human rights abusers from prosecution and punishment would no longer be tolerated. However, in recent years, large-scale and horrific abuses have been perpetrated daily in Syria, Yemen, South Sudan, and other places, seemingly with little international effort to prevent or remedy them. This has led some to express concerns that the international community is abandoning the fight against impunity and, more worryingly, that we are entering a ‘post-human rights world’. In this lecture, Professor Louise Mallinder reflected on what her research on amnesty laws over the past decade and half tells us about the progress and challenges in the struggle against impunity.

 

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