Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 17, Issue 5, pp 971–985 | Cite as

The Case for the Moral Permissibility of Amnesties: An Argument from Social Moral Epistemology

  • Juan Espindola


This paper makes the case for the permissibility of post-conflict amnesties, although not on prudential grounds. It argues that amnesties of a certain scope, targeted to certain categories of perpetrators, and offered in certain contexts are morally permissible because they are an acknowledgment of the difficulty of attributing criminal responsibility in mass violence contexts. Based on this idea, the paper develops the further claim that deciding which amnesties are permissible and which ones are not should be decided on a case-by-case basis. Against what seems to be an increasingly popular assumption of some international actors, just as "blanket" amnesties (i.e. very broad and general amnesties that foreclose criminal prosecution for all kinds of perpetrators and all kinds of wrongdoing) are impermissible, so is an absolutist rejection of all types of amnesties.


Amnesty Social moral epistemology Moral and criminal responsibility 



I would like to thank Allen Buchanan, Rainer Forst, Stephan Gosepath, Jesse Tomalty, Moises Vaca, and two anonymous reviewers for their comments on previous version of this paper. This paper was completed thanks to the generous support of the Justitia Amplificata Centre for Advanced Studies, at the University of Frankfurt; and of the Postdoctoral Fellowship program at the Institute for Social Research in the National University of Mexico.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Social ResearchNational University of MexicoMexicoMexico

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