Impunity means "exemption from punishment or loss". [ [ Free Dictionary] ] In the international law of human rights, it refers to the failure to bring perpetrators of human rights violations to justice and, as such, itself constitutes a denial of the victims' right to justice and redress. Impunity is especially common in countries that lack a tradition of the rule of law, suffer from corruption or that have entrenched systems of patronage, or where the judiciary is weak or members of the security forces are protected by special jurisdictions or immunities. The amended Set of Principles for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights Through Action to Combat Impunity, submitted to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights on 8 February 2005, defines impunity as::"the impossibility, "de jure" or "de facto", of bringing the perpetrators of violations to account – whether in criminal, civil, administrative or disciplinary proceedings – since they are not subject to any inquiry that might lead to their being accused, arrested, tried and, if found guilty, sentenced to appropriate penalties, and to making reparations to their victims." [ [ Principles for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights Through Action to Combat Impunity] ] The First Principle of that same document states that::"Impunity arises from a failure by States to meet their obligations to investigate violations; to take appropriate measures in respect of the perpetrators, particularly in the area of justice, by ensuring that those suspected of criminal responsibility are prosecuted, tried and duly punished; to provide victims with effective remedies and to ensure that they receive reparation for the injuries suffered; to ensure the inalienable right to know the truth about violations; and to take other necessary steps to prevent a recurrence of violations."

Truth and reconciliation commissions are frequently established by nations emerging from periods marked by human rights violations – coups d'état, military dictatorships, civil wars, etc. – in order to cast light on the events of the past. While such mechanisms can assist in the ultimate prosecution of crimes and punishment of the guilty, they have often been criticised for perpetuating impunity by enabling violators to seek protection of concurrently adopted amnesty laws.

ee also

*Command responsibility
*Human rights abuse
*International humanitarian law
*International law
*Impunity Watch
*Impunity Watch (foundation)


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  • Impunity — Im*pu ni*ty, n. [L. impunitas, fr. impunis without punishment; pref. im not + poena punishment: cf. F. impunit[ e]. See {Pain}.] Exemption or freedom from punishment, harm, or loss. [1913 Webster] Heaven, though slow to wrath, Is never with… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • impunity — ► NOUN (usu. in phrase with impunity) ▪ exemption from punishment or from the harmful consequences of an action. ORIGIN Latin impunitas, from impunis unpunished …   English terms dictionary

  • impunity — I noun absolution, acquittal, amnesty, condonation, dispensation, escape, exemption, exemption from judgment, exemption from penalty, exemption from punishment, freedom, freedom from judgment, freedom from penalty, freedom from punishment,… …   Law dictionary

  • impunity — (n.) 1530s, from M.Fr. impunité (14c.) and directly from L. impunitatem (nom. impunitas) freedom from punishment, omission of punishment, also rashness, inconsideration, from impunis unpunished, without punishment, from assimilated form of in not …   Etymology dictionary

  • impunity — [n] freedom dispensation, exception, exemption, immunity, liberty, license, nonliability, permission, privilege, security; concept 376 Ant. imprisonment, incarceration  …   New thesaurus

  • impunity — [im pyo͞o′ni tē] n. [Fr impunité < L impunitas < impunis, free from punishment < in , without + poena, punishment: see PAIN] freedom or exemption from punishment, penalty, or harm SYN. EXEMPTION …   English World dictionary

  • impunity — immunity, impunity In non medical contexts immunity means ‘freedom or exemption from an obligation, penalty, or unfavourable circumstance’ and like immune can be followed by to or from: • Balder was a son of the most senior god, Odin, and one… …   Modern English usage

  • impunity — im|pu|ni|ty [ımˈpju:nıti] n [Date: 1500 1600; : Latin; Origin: impunitas, from poena pain, punishment ] do sth with impunity if someone does something bad with impunity, there is no risk that they will be punished for it ▪ It s astonishing that… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • impunity — [[t]ɪmpju͟ːnɪti[/t]] PHRASE: PHR after v (disapproval) If you say that someone does something with impunity, you disapprove of the fact that they are not punished for doing something bad. Mr Cook said future aggressors would be able to act with… …   English dictionary

  • impunity — noun do sth with impunity if you do something wrong or immoral with impunity, there is no risk that you will be punished for it: Men used to be able to violently abuse their wives with almost total impunity …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

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