Document Type



This article uses the two amnesties granted by the Cambodian government in 1994 and 1996 to explore two important legal issues raised by amnesties generally: 1) to whom is the amnesty granted; and 2) for how long will the amnesty last. The first issue addresses the beneficiary question – who is able to take advantage of an amnesty. The most interesting issue raised by the beneficiary question is whether an amnesty should be restricted to either superiors or subordinates. The article discusses this choice in the context of the Cambodian amnesties, other amnesties, and international law, and highlight the moral, legal, and practical advantages of restricting an amnesty to either superiors or subordinates. The second issue concerns the temporal reach of amnesties. As most recently illustrated by the repeal of the amnesty laws by the Argentinean Congress, the modern trend is to grant amnesties for human rights abuses during a transitional period, only to have those amnesties repealed (either legislatively or judicially) once peace and stability have been established. The article discuss statutes of limitation, immunities, and other temporal legal doctrines to better understand the legal significance of this emerging state practice. The article concludes with some suggestions for the tribunal that the UN and Cambodian government are establishing to address the gross violations of human rights committed by the Khmer Rouge. The statute establishing the tribunal leaves the question of whether to recognize the 1994 and 1996 amnesties to the tribunal judges. The article argues that those judges should look to the modern state practice concerning amnesties and neither categorically accept or reject those amnesties, but instead use them to further the goals of justice, truth, and reconciliation that underlie the creation of the tribunal.