lunes, 2 de noviembre de 2009

Amnesties for Mass atrocities

Last week I went to a Conference called "Amnesties for Mass Atrocities". I went not just because I am a lawyer, but also because of the title itself was appealing to me. I come from Colombia, and as many of you know we've been in a civil war since more than 5 decades already. Well, with the Justice and Peace law in 2005, the Colombian government has drawn a plan to allow members of armed groups in the Conflict to re-enter civilian life. The whole process involved a kind of Amnesty itself, because the penalty is just 5-8 years prison, even for mass crimes.
At first thought, Amnesties for crimes against humanity should be forbidden. But, aren't we falling into a truism?
I want to share with you some ideas that came out of the Lecture.
The practice of Amnesties dates back centuries. They were used in Athens and Rome. They were seen as a way to pass through a political transition. With the time, they became known as the "necessary evil" to end a war.
It worked in South Africa and other countries. So, why not use it to end heinous wars such as in Uganda, where there is been a violent conflict for more than 20 years already. Here some reasons to not close the door to Amnesties without study case by case:
- There are not International Treaties that prohibit Amnesties, or even describes them.
- International Treaties and National legislation require the Governments not only to punish the wrong-doer, but TO PREVENT crimes. International law makes no hierarchy between those two obligations.
- Justice is not an unbreakable principle. The right to live should be in harmony with the others.
Going back to the Uganda case, I am not an expert; but I know that we should listen to the victims, to the people who have suffered the conflict and see what is the best option for them, to forgive and go on, or to keep fighting and dream with the justice that might never come?
In all cases, Amnesties should not be used as a last resort. Sometimes, Peace is another form of Justice.
What do you think about it?

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