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The end of the Cold War marked the start of a new era in global politics in which legalism and the rule of law became increasingly important in international relations and the number of international legal institutions grew. In particular, international criminal law, which had largely been moribund during the previous decades, was revived with the creation of the ad hoc tribunals, the hybrid courts and the International Criminal Court (ICC). These developments were hailed by human rights activists and the international legal community as important steps towards ending the cultures of impunity that so often prevail in the aftermath of mass violence. However, despite these developments, amnesty laws continue to be introduced in many countries to shield individuals or groups from legal sanctions, even for the most serious crimes. As a result, amnesties remain a contentious, yet vibrant issue within international criminal law. This chapter will investigate their controversial status by analysing relevant treaty provisions, customary international law and the statutes and jurisprudence of international criminal courts.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Handbook of International Criminal Law
EditorsWilliam Schabas, Nadia Bérnaz
ISBN (Print)978-0-415-55203-5
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - Nov 2010


  • amnesty law
  • international criminal law
  • international criminal justice
  • international courts
  • hybrid courts
  • impunity
  • immunity


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