The 7 Differences Between Amnesty And Pardon

A summary of the differences between amnesty and pardon in the judicial system.

Differences between amnesty and pardon

There are many concepts and terms within the legal and legal field that we hear frequently but that, however, we do not quite understand what they are. It can happen to us, for example, with amnesty and pardon.

Do you know these concepts? Can you tell what the differences are between amnesty and pardon ? In this article we will see what each of them means, and what are their essential differences, which will allow you to understand them more clearly.

What are these concepts of the judicial world?

The main difference is found in their own definitions, since the pardon implies the forgiveness of the penalty, and the amnesty implies the forgiveness of the crime.

This first difference means that, in practice, only the part of the sentence that the person pardoned has not yet served can be pardoned; On the other hand, in the case of amnesty, it may happen that the person who receives the amnesty is rehabilitated, in terms of rights that have already been lost.

Thus, these are two terms related to the legal and legal field, which refer to a suppression of the penalties and / or crimes of convicted persons. Before explaining in a more detailed and concrete way what are the differences between amnesty and pardon, we are going to explain what each of these concepts consists of, broadly speaking.

1. Amnesty

According to the Royal Spanish Academy of the Language (RAE), amnesty is the “Forgiveness of certain types of crimes, which extinguishes the responsibility of their authors.”

According to the different definitions of amnesty, we find that it implies the forgiveness of certain types of crimes (the vast majority, political crimes). On the other hand, the amnesty also extinguishes the responsibility of these crimes to their perpetrators, and eliminates any possible criminal record caused by such crimes. In short, in the amnesty the penalty and the crime are eliminated, and the convicted person is no longer considered guilty.

On the other hand, the amnesty intervenes directly on a category of crimes, and therefore is not directed at a single individual, but at an entire group (let’s think in the case of the Catalan process, where those convicted are a group of people, and not just one).

Thus, the objective of the amnesty is to “bury” a source of conflict, which is why, in a certain way, it is based on oblivion. In other words, it is intended to turn the page, in order to promote reconciliation and start a new stage.

2. Pardon

In this case, according to the RAE, the pardon has two meanings; the first “Grace by which a sentence is remitted totally or partially or commuted”, and the second “Grace exceptionally granted by the Head of State, by which he totally or partially forgives a penalty or commutes it for another more benign”.

Other definitions of pardon qualify it as an exceptional measure of grace, which remits the sentences of the convicted, either totally or partially (that is, some, some or part of them); this measure is given by final judgment.

On the other hand, the pardon affects all kinds of crimes, but only extinguishes the criminal responsibility of the convicted person. This means that it does not suppress the criminal record of the same, as it happens with the amnesty. In other words, the culprit remains “guilty”, even if the penalty, or part of it, is forgiven or suppressed.

Main differences between amnesty and pardon

Now that we have known, in broad strokes, what these concepts mean, let’s see what the main differences are between amnesty and pardon.

1. Object of forgiveness

The first of the differences between amnesty and pardon is found in the object of forgiveness; thus, while in the case of amnesty what is forgiven is the crime (which also includes the penalty), in the case of pardon what is only forgiven is the penalty (but not the crime).

Furthermore, it should be specified that in the case of pardon, the “central” penalty is usually forgiven, but not the accessory ones. To understand it better, let’s give an example: let’s remember the case of the Catalan procés (independence movement); if the prisoners are pardoned, the years of imprisonment are forgiven (central penalty), but not the years of disqualification (accessory penalty). However, each case requires its study and its specifications.

2. Civil liability

Another difference between amnesty and pardon has to do with the extinction of civil liability; thus, the pardon does not extinguish the convicted person of the civil responsibility derived from the crime, while the amnesty does.

Let us remember that civil liability, in understandable terms, is the obligation to compensate (that is, “give something or make a benefit to a person as reparation for damage”), which arises as a consequence of a damage caused.

3. Type of crimes

Although both amnesty and pardon apply to different types of crimes, amnesties generally apply to political crimes, and pardons to crimes of all kinds.

Let us think, for example, in the case of the Catalan procés, where many ask for amnesty (and not so much pardon) of the politicians who led the independence movement.

4. Criminal record

As we have seen previously, another of the differences between amnesty and pardon is that the amnesty extinguishes the convicted person from the criminal record, while the pardon does not (or not necessarily).

5. Requirement of a final judgment

In the case of amnesty, at the legal level a final judgment is not required (that is, it is not necessary); On the other hand, in the case of pardon, it is necessary.

6. Administrative act or law

Generally, for a pardon to be granted, an administrative act is needed, which consists of a “manifestation or declaration of a public authority in which it imposes its will regarding the rights of another person, as well as the freedoms or interests of someone type”.

Instead, for an amnesty to be granted, a specific law is needed in relation to the crimes in question and their annulment period. Thus, the amnesty would require the “yes” of most of the Congressmen to grant it.

7. Guilt of the convicted person

The last of the differences between amnesty and pardon refers to the guilt or not of the convicted person; thus, while in the pardon the person continues to be considered guilty, in the amnesty they cease to be so.

Bibliographic references:

Macia, J. (2016). Amnesty and pardon. Right’s studies. Aprende en Línea.REAL ACADEMIA ESPAÑOLA (RAE): Dictionary of the Spanish language, 23rd ed., [Version 23.3 online]. [date of consultation: December 12, 2019]. Requejo, JL (2001). Amnesty and pardon in the Spanish historical constitutionalism. Constitutional history: Electronic Magazine.

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