RICR No. 856

Legality of amnesties in international humanitarian law. The Lomé Amnesty Decision of the Special Court for Sierra Leone

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On 13 March 2004, the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) rendered an important decision on the validity of amnesties under international law. The Appeals Chamber of the SCSL ruled that amnesties granted to persons of the warring factions in the Sierra Leone civil war by the so-called Lomé Peace Agreement are no bar to prosecution before it. This decision is the first ruling of an international criminal tribunal unequivocally stating that amnesties do not bar the prosecution of international crimes before international or foreign courts. The following article will briefly discuss this significant and controversial decision for the development of international humanitarian law and will then examine the most important and critical findings of the ruling, after first giving a brief summary of the legal background to the SCSL, the Lomé Peace Agreement and the Appeals Chamber decision (Lome Decision) itself.

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