Of amnesty, pendulums, and peremptory norms

Schabas, William A. ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7462-4284 (2021) Of amnesty, pendulums, and peremptory norms. FIU Law Review, 15 (1) , 17. pp. 83-85. ISSN 2643-7767 [Article] (doi:10.25148/lawrev.15.1.17)


For much of the first four decades of its history as an independent State, Sierra Leone was in a situation of great turmoil if not full-blown civil war. The final years of the century were characterized by a conflict of unspeakable brutality. But the country has now been at peace for about twenty years. The beginning of this modern period was marked by various initiatives of what is usually referred to as transitional justice, devoted to accountability for past atrocities and building a strong rule of law framework that would diminish the likelihood of recurrence.

Who can take the credit for this incredible accomplishment? Does Sierra Leone furnish proof that an international criminal tribunal targeted at a very small number of leading individuals (“those who bear the greatest responsibility,”1 to use the words of the Statute of the Special Court for Sierra Leone) makes a decisive contribution to permanent peace? Or do some or even most of the kudos belong to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, with its broad approach that included analysis of such issues as economic and social rights, women’s equality and capital and corporal punishments? Or is the real explanation to be found in the terms of the 1999 Lomé Agreement? The price it paid for an end to the conflict was a broad amnesty. But maybe the amnesty was the key to a peaceful future, diminished only in its totality by the dozen or so prosecutions of the Special Court? Or is it all of these factors, or none of them?

The story is surely apocryphal, like most good ones. But it is said that when Charles de Gaulle asked Chou Enlai whether he thought the French Revolution had been a success, the Chinese premier replied, “It’s too early to tell.” Perhaps that is also the case with assessments of the effectiveness of the post-conflict mechanisms in Sierra Leone. [...]

Item Type: Article
Research Areas: A. > School of Law
Item ID: 33688
Useful Links:
Depositing User: Jisc Publications Router
Date Deposited: 29 Jul 2021 07:40
Last Modified: 10 Nov 2021 12:23
URI: https://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/33688

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