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Amnesties have hit problems in other conflicts

THE suggestion of a blanket amnesty is a brave one, but reality checks must be carried out when one considers the difficulties experienced with post-war amnesties.

In El Salvador, the amnesty law created a climate of impunity and had the effect of blocking investigations into the whereabouts of the remains of thousands of Salvadorans who were "disappeared" during the 1980-1992 conflict.

In Sierra Leone, the blanket amnesty under the Lome Agreement caused untold difficulties.

It is now recognised that blanket war amnesties are not suitable for post-war conflicts, particularly where serious crimes have not yet been investigated and where victims are still awaiting justice.

In 2009, the UN developed formal guidelines stating that amnesties must not include those responsible for war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity, or gross violations of human rights.

The guidelines do, however, discuss amnesties in conjunction with peace and reconciliation initiatives. Timing and sensitives must also be given very careful consideration.

RICHARD COFFEY

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