Sometimes there should be no amnesty, says Amnesty

I was struck by a number of things today, which got me thinking about justice, and whether delayed justice loses a degree of its value.

The life imprisonment ot former SS leader Heinrich Boere, at age 88, might not have been witnessed by many of the people most directly affected by his crimes. It will certainly not be known of by the victims of his crimes. He is one of Hitler’s ‘Henchmen’ who killed three Dutch men, chosen at random, for every attempt on a German life. His own perverse version of retribution. He remains utterly remorseless. Asked how he could do it, he laughed at reporters and said; “it was easy, you simply squeeze the trigger with your finger”.

He is an older man than the one who perpetrated the murders, but clearly his ideology remains unchanged. This is immaterial, though. He committed the crimes, and must be tried. Subject to the stipulations of international law, just as everyone must be. 

In another reference to the Nazi period, and the factors which brought such a party to power, the Sudanese elections were today likened to ‘Hitler elections’ by the International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor. He made the comment on the day after the Sudanese president, Omar Al-Bashir, threatened to expel international observers. Omar Al-Bashir said that if observers attempted to postpone the elections, his party would “cut off their fingers and put them under our shoes”.

Such rhetoric is frightening, not least because here too is a stated intent to mete out his own version of justice, from someone who considers himself above justice. Both Al-Bashir and Boere, see their own view of the world as unquestionably legitimate, and remain defiant in the face of international condemnation, even to the last.

Yet there is hope to be found in the conviction and sentencing of Boere. This leads me on to Amnesty’s call for El Salvador to repeal a law which affords complete protection to the people responsible for the killings of thousands during the conflict in the country from 1980-1992. Under this law, none of those people who carried out the multiple murders, disappearances and rapes can be held to account for their actions. The ‘Amnesty’ law, passed in 1993 means that members of the “death squads” can be safe in the knowledge that they will not be tried in a court. So long as such confidence in immunity persists, atrocities will be committed. Yet, this week’s events demonstrate that it is not too late. With patience, and persistence all of the wronged of the world might yet get their day in court. 

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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