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In 1999 the United Nations performed a significant about-face in its policy concerning the use of amnesties in peace negotiations. Where once it had condoned and even supported the use of amnesties, including those that immunise perpetrators of human rights violations against prosecutions and punishment, the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, now issued a statement prohibiting UN peace negotiators from offering amnesties for human rights violations, even when the signing of a peace agreement was at stake. This chapter introduces the United Nations’ anti-amnesty policy, provides an overview of its theoretical underpinnings, development, establishment as a policy norm, and considers its implications for peace negotiators.
Drawing on a new peace agreements dataset, this chapter maps general trends in the use of amnesties in peace agreements from 1980 to 2015 and situates Asian peacemaking practice within them. Focusing on a range of conflict-related, economic and political variables, as well as the engagement of the United Nations (UN) in peace negotiations, it provides a set of preliminary explanations for the continued persistence of amnesties in Asian peace processes. The chapter highlights the existence of an unusually strong relationship between separatist conflict and the rejection of the UN’s anti-amnesty policy in Asia, demonstrates that, in contrast to the global sample, Asian democracies are no more or less likely to allow amnesties for human rights violations than authoritarian regimes, and shows that the relative lack of engagement by the UN in Asian peace negotiations is a significant factor in the continued use of amnesties for human rights violations in the region.
This chapter examines the Bangsamoro peace process to end civil conflict on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines. With the Philippines boasting a long history of granting amnesties for human rights violations in the context of separatist and other conflicts, and the United Nations excluded from the negotiations, this appears to be a straightforward case in which an amnesty is used to address an intractable separatist conflict. Yet, as this chapter argues, the post-settlement period reveals that the fight against impunity for human rights violations in the Philippines is far from over. Rather, the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission has taken a strong, but pragmatic anti-impunity stance, argued that impunity for human rights violations is not a means of achieving peace but a cause of conflict in Mindanao, and proposed measures to institutionalise the eradication of amnesties for human rights violations in the Philippines. Directly influenced by United Nations’ policies, it has sought not only to promote accountability and anti-amnesty norms but to refute the most commonly used justification for the use of amnesties in the Philippines and, indeed, region.
This chapter examines the settlement of the separatist conflict fought in Aceh, Indonesia. It demonstrates that after the loss of East Timor, Indonesia toughened its approach to separatist claims and reaffirmed its acceptance of impunity and belief in the relative importance of state survival over human rights. The chapter argues that this and the UN’s absence from the peace process, meant that the inclusion of an unrestricted amnesty in the final peace agreement was unsurprising. However, the chapter also details the evolution of the separatists’ ideas about the relationship between peace and justice and the importance of ending impunity for human rights violations in Aceh. It demonstrates that although the protection of human rights and the pursuit of accountability for past violations was a key pillar of the separatists’ claim, as the conflict and negotiations wore on, the possibility of Acehnese independence faded, and a political future for its key protagonists became probable, they accepted the pragmatic view that amnesties may help end conflict, allow some measure of self-determination and, perhaps ironically, facilitate the protection of human rights.
Drawing on the fundamental principles of the interpretive approach, this chapter provides a set of theoretical explanations for Asian resistance to the United Nations’ anti-amnesty norm. Building on existing explanations for resistance to human rights accountability norms in Asia, it details the historical and contemporary contexts, beliefs and ideas that have led peacemakers to resist the UN’s anti-amnesty policy in the region. It argues that resistance in the Asia-Pacific can be attributed to the persistence of longstanding beliefs about the importance of preserving the sovereignty, stability, and sanctity of the state. These beliefs, which found prominent form during the ‘Asian values’ debate of the 1990s, were forged in a context in which state formation and consolidation existed in tension with relentless separatist claims and the persistent threat of state disintegration.
This chapter examines the case of Timor-Leste, the first peace settlement negotiated after the United Nations launched its anti-amnesty policy. As a UN-led process, initial acceptance of the anti-amnesty position was guaranteed: none of the resolutions that provided for the settlement of East Timor’s independence struggle included amnesties, and soon after independence a hybrid tribunal was established to prosecute perpetrators of human rights violations. However, this anti-impunity/pro-accountability stance quickly eroded in the post-conflict period with persistent calls for amnesties being translated into practical impunity measures. As this chapter demonstrates, both Indonesian and East Timorese leaders have emphasised the importance of state security, stability, and survival in justifying the use of impunity measures. For Indonesian, in particular, acceptance of impunity for human rights violations came in the context of the threat to state disintegration posed by separatist claims in other parts of the country. For both, resistance to the anti-amnesty norm was the result of a norm hierarchy that prioritises the survival of the state over individual human rights claims.
This chapter examines the peace process undertaken by the Government of Nepal and the Community Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M). Nepal’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), negotiated in the presence of United Nations officials and signed in 2006, does not include an amnesty provision but a commitment to accountability for human rights violations and an agreement to end impunity for such crimes. Yet, as this chapter demonstrates, agreement to include anti-impunity measures in the CPA was driven, not by a commitment to end impunity for human rights violations, but by a desire to avoid criticism from the international actors present during the negotiations. This lack of intention to comply with the human rights terms of the CPA was evident in the negotiating process and has been born out in the post-conflict period, with several successive governments attempting to legislate in favour of introducing amnesty laws. At the same time, a lack of capacity within those local institutions committed to ending impunity for human rights violations, exacerbated by the withdrawal of UN support for their processes, has hampered efforts to combat these impunity measures.