Namibia and Blanket Amnesties: Challenging the Namibian Blanket Amnesties on the basis of International Law in the Namibian Courts

Author Atilla Kisla

ISSN: 2522-3062
Affiliations: PhD Candidate, Department of Public Law, University of Cape Town
Source: Comparative and International Law Journal of Southern Africa, The, Volume 53 Issue 2, p. 3 – 39


Amnesty laws issued by Administrator General Pienaar in 1989 and 1990 still show their effect by preventing prosecutions and investigations of situations that occurred before Namibia’s independence. Unlike South Africa, Namibia did not establish a truth-finding body such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The result is a situation of silence, oblivion and impunity without any kind of accountability. On this basis, crimes such as international crimes or serious human rights violations have never been prosecuted or even investigated. As this article argues, the amnesty laws from 1989 and 1990 qualify as blanket amnesties. Up until today, Namibians as well as the members of the South African Defence Force benefit from those amnesties. Against this backdrop, the question of whether the Namibian blanket amnesties apply in relation to international crimes and grave human rights violations will be addressed. This article argues that based on international law, the application of the Namibian blanket amnesties can be challenged in a potential criminal case that deals with international crimes or grave human rights violations in the Namibian courts. Therefore, this article illustrates how international law applies in the Namibian legal system. In this context, Namibia follows a monist approach which makes it quite receptive of international law and international standards. On this basis, this article points out binding international law at the time before and after Namibia’s independence as well as examining Namibia’s binding treaty obligations which arise under the Geneva Conventions, Torture Convention and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In the next section, an examination of domestic and international jurisprudence lays the foundation for the argument that the Namibian blanket amnesties can be challenged in a Namibian court when the crimes in question constitute international crimes, such as crimes against humanity or war crimes.