Practice Relating to Rule 159. Amnesty
Argentina’s Amnesty Law (1973) provides that amnesty shall be granted for acts committed before 25 May 1973 and relating to political, social, trade union or student activities, and for acts committed by civilians prosecuted by military courts or military commanders. Under this law, all sentences for such acts should be discontinued.
Argentina’s Self-Amnesty Law (1983), in connection with the armed confrontations which occurred in the fight against subversive terrorism, discontinued the penal actions resulting from crimes committed for the purpose of terrorist or subversive activities between 25 May 1973 and 17 June 1982. It also applied to all unlawful acts undertaken on the occasion of, or for the purpose of developing, actions to prevent, thwart or put an end to terrorist or subversive activities.
However, this Law was found to be unconstitutional and declared void by the Law Repealing the Self-Amnesty Law which declared it to be “without any juridical effect as regards the judgment of the penal, civil, administrative and military responsibilities for the acts it claims to cover. In particular, the principle of least harsh punishment, stipulated in Article 2 of the Penal Code, is inapplicable.”
The Constitution of the City of Buenos Aires (1996) (Argentina) provides that the functions of the head of government of the autonomous City of Buenos Aires shall include the authority to “pardon or commute penalties individually and in exceptional cases following a plea by a competent court. However, at no time may he pardon or commute, inter alia
, penalties for crimes against humanity, or crimes committed by public officials during the course of their duties.”
In the Cavallo case
in 2001, Argentina’s Federal Judge nullified two 1987 laws that had amnestied hundreds of military officers for human rights violations during the country’s 1976–1983 dictatorship. The judge stated that these laws did not respect States’ obligations under international law to investigate and punish human rights violations and crimes against humanity.