Ensuring national authorities investigate and prosecute serious human rights violations before national courts.
History demonstrates that when genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture, extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances have been committed, in nearly all cases, national authorities have failed to investigate and prosecute these crimes.
The common reasons for this failure have been:
- Lack of political will.
- Political decisions to establish amnesties protecting the perpetrators.
- Collapse of the national legal system.
- Inadequate national laws criminalizing the crimes.
- Other legal obstacles to justice, including statutes of limitations and immunities.
Although in some instances international and internationalized criminal courts have been established to prosecute crimes in a few national situations, in practice they have only prosecuted them in a small number of cases.
To end the trend of impunity completely, it is essential that states directly affected by the crimes fulfil their responsibilities and that international courts or other states, acting on behalf of the entire international community, step in to do so when these states fail to act.
Establishing effective national frameworks to guarantee against impunity
Amnesty International is campaigning for all governments, regardless of whether they have been directly affected by these crimes in recent history, to:
- ensure that national laws enable national authorities to investigate and prosecute these crimes wherever and whenever they have occurred without obstacles
- ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the Agreement on Privileges and Immunities of the International Criminal Court and ensure that national law provides for full cooperation with the International Criminal Court, in case the national justice system is unable or unwilling to prosecute the crimes and the Court steps in.
Investigating and prosecuting the crimes before national courts
When the crimes are committed, Amnesty International campaigns for the governments of the countries where the crimes were committed or whose nationals committed the crimes to establish, with the help of the international community, a comprehensive plan of action to ensure that all crimes are investigated and, where there is sufficient evidence, those suspected of committing the crimes are prosecuted in fair trials, without recourse to the death penalty, torture or ill-treatment or other human rights violations.
Since these crimes are the worst crimes known to humanity, any national barriers to prosecution must be removed, including immunities, amnesties and statutes of limitations.