Amnesty and Mercy

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Criminal Law and Philosophy, 2019, 13 (4), pp. 621 - 641
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© 2019, Springer Nature B.V. I assess the justification for the granting of amnesty (the exempting of classes of offenders from criminal liability) in the circumstances of ‘transitional justice’ advanced by certain of its supporters according to which this device is morally legitimate because it amounts to an act of mercy. I consider several prominent definitions of ‘mercy’ with a view to determining whether amnesty counts as mercy under each and what follows for its moral status. I argue that amnesty cannot count as mercy under any definition in accordance with which an act or practice’s amounting to mercy lends it justificatory support, while its qualifying as mercy under certain morally neutral definitions provides no basis for considering it justified.
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