Professor Louise Mallinder introduces the ground-breaking new amnesties database published by Queen’s University Belfast School of Law and the University of Edinburgh’s Political Settlements Research Programme.
The Political Settlements Research Programme is delighted to announce the publication of the Amnesties, Conflict, and Peace Agreement (ACPA) Database created by Professor Louise Mallinder of Queen’s University Belfast School of Law.
What is the ACPA Database?
ACPA is a ground-breaking database providing open-access, qualitative descriptions of key themes relating to the scope and legal effects of different forms of amnesty, together with information on when and how they are implemented to remove criminal liability for conflict-related offences. The key themes covered in the database are:
- The context in which the amnesty was introduced (e.g. regime type, or timing in the transition from conflict to peace)
- The process of introducing the amnesty, and where appropriate, amending or annulling the amnesty
- The categories of persons who benefited from the amnesty or were excluded from its terms
- The crimes that are included in or excluded from the amnesty
- The conditions that amnestied persons must comply with to obtain or retain amnesty
- The effects of the amnesty on criminal justice, civil remedies and administrative accountability processes
- How the amnesty was implemented, including whether victims had a voice in the process of deciding whether individual amnesty applicants should be granted amnesty.
ACPA covers amnesties that are granted during ongoing conflicts, as part of peace negotiations, or in post-conflict periods. As of July 2020, ACPA contains data on 289 amnesties that were introduced from 1990-2016 in all world regions.
The database is structured around single amnesty processes, a collective term that encompasses how a range of legal texts (e.g. peace agreements, primary legislation, implementing regulations, legislative amendments, judicial decisions) can regulate the implementation of a single amnesty. This process-orientated approach enables the amnesty description to reflect how the scope and effects of an amnesty can evolve over time. It also enables researchers to track the implementation of peace agreement amnesty commitments from the text of the agreement through domestic legislation and case law. As indicated in this report outlining the database’s main findings, this research demonstrated that 83 per cent of the amnesty commitments identified in PSRP’s PA-X Peace Agreement database were implemented.
ACPA usage and findings
At a macro level, ACPA enables researchers to identify and analyse broad patterns in amnesty design over time, across regions, or in specific political contexts. For example, the database has revealed that amnesties introduced for conflict-related crimes, in the years after a peace agreement has been reached, tend to be granted unconditionally for state actors. Furthermore, exploring patterns relating to the inclusion or exclusion of international crimes and serious human rights violations in amnesty laws can cast light on the status of amnesties under customary international law. Finally, ACPA has revealed that considerable diversity exists in the design of amnesties during conflict and transitions towards peace, which may affect an amnesty’s legitimacy and capacity to contribute to sustainable peace. This data can therefore provide an empirical grounding for future research to conduct more finely grained analyses of the impact of different types of amnesty at different stages from conflict to peace than has previously been possible.
At a more micro level, this unique resource contains information on aspects of amnesty design that have not previously been subjected to academic scrutiny, such as the range of potential legal effects for amnesties and the mechanisms for their implementation. Furthermore, for conflict mediators and societies that are grappling with ending armed conflict, this data resource can provide models of how amnesty processes can be designed. This is particularly useful for showing that amnesties do not necessarily always entail impunity, but rather can have a range of conditions and legal effects that can help the amnesty contribute to the delivery of the peace process, as well as support non-prosecutorial accountability efforts.
What does the ACPA website offer to users?
The ACPA’s simple search page allows users to search for specific key words and phrases, and to filter their searches by:
- country name
- world region
- date of enactment
- the timing of the amnesty in the process of moving from conflict to peace
- whether the amnesty is conditional or unconditional.
The advanced search function retains these filters, but also enables users to search by specific components of amnesty design and to identify amnesties that contain different combinations of components. These components relate to sub-categories falling under each of the key themes listed above. Advanced searches enable users to, for example, identify amnesties that (1) are granted to security detainees and (2) contain post-amnesty conditions that amnesty beneficiaries refrain from recidivism. Although ACPA is primarily a qualitative resource, these searches may also be used to obtain basic quantitative information, such as the total number of amnesties granted to non-state armed groups.
For more information on the contents of the ACPA database, see Prof. Mallinder’s ACPA codebook.
Amnesties and Inclusive Political Settlements: PSRP Report by Prof. Mallinder
This research report explores when and how amnesties are used during conflict and transitions towards peace.
Amnesties Infographic by PSRP
Amnesties can encourage those involved in conflict to move from war to peace by offering immunity for some actions during war. This infographic explores how amnesties are in tension with, or can be reconciled with accountability.