Overcoming barriers to justice in the age of human rights accountability

Leigh A. Payne, Francesca Lessa, Gabriel Pereira

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Amnesty laws are viewed as a main barrier to justice for past human rights violations. Scholars and practitioners expected the age of human rights accountability to reduce the number or coverage of amnesty laws that block human rights trials. Based on analysis of an original database of amnesty laws and trials, this article questions that outcome. Few discernible patterns regarding amnesty laws and accountability emerge; human rights trials are nearly as likely in the absence of amnesty laws or where partial laws in compliance with international standards and noncompliant blanket amnesty laws exist. Most of the countries that have overcome the amnesty law barriers to justice are in Latin America. This article thus uses the region to identify a multidimensional approach to pathways to overcome impunity and promote justice for past human rights violations. It considers policy recommendations to strengthen four factors that have advanced accountability in the region: civil society demand, international pressure, judicial leadership, and the absence of veto players.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)728-754
Number of pages27
JournalHuman Rights Quarterly
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 by Johns Hopkins University Press.


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