The resurgence of amnesties in Latin America: between remembrance and renewal

Latin American countries have recently enacted or considered amnesty laws to pardon persons convicted of crimes stemming from internal armed conflicts and gang violence. The most prominent development has occurred in Colombia, where the amnesty law of 2016 covers guerrilla fighters and military personnel who were involved in the conflict between FARC and the Colombian government. In Mexico, the newly elected president has promised amnesties to forcibly recruited gang members. These trends run counter to constitutional, legislative and judicial developments in the region and contrast highly with the jurisprudence of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (Barrios Altos, 2001). This contribution surveys the international legal rules applicable to amnesties in these rapidly changing societies to determine the lawfulness of the Colombian and Mexican measures. It concludes that, with their emphasis on restoration, reparation and reconciliation, these amnesties cannot be deemed unlawful.