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Broad Amnesty in Mozambique Likely to Fuel Future Abuses

Fourth Law Exempting Opposing Forces from Punishment

Mozambican army vehicles patrol roads in the Gorongosa area in central Mozambique, May 2016. © 2016 John Wessels /AFP/Getty Images

Mozambique’s Parliament has approved a broad amnesty law that exempts from prosecution members of government forces and the rebel-turned-opposition group Renamo for crimes committed between 2014 and 2016. During this time, the two forces were involved in sporadic fighting that led to serious human rights abuses including enforced disappearances, torture, killings, and the destruction of private property – all documented in our 2018 report “The Next One to Die.”

Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi denies that government forces committed any crimes. But he still submitted the draft law to parliament, contending that it was needed to restore trust between the two parties, as well as to “promote political stability” and ensure a “lasting and effective peace.” But what Mozambique’s history shows is that amnesties for grave crimes only deny justice to victims and fuel future abuses.

This is the fourth amnesty law in Mozambique’s history. Previous amnesties were enacted in 1987, 1992, and 2014. None brought lasting political stability or a durable peace. And none brought an end to the human rights abuses that fuel conflict.

For example, when the 2014 amnesty collapsed, violations resumed in a climate of impunity. Women in Sofala province told us that their husbands disappeared in April 2016, after the police accused them of being Renamo supporters. We reported many other cases of people who forcibly disappeared in similar circumstances.

Since a ceasefire in December 2016, the hostilities and conflict-related human rights abuses have stopped. But the government has not met its obligation under international law to hold to account those responsible for abuses on both sides. It also has not established a national database of missing people to help locate those who were arrested, killed, or forcibly disappeared.

The amnesty law passed this week is a betrayal of the thousands of victims of Mozambique’s conflicts. Parliament ignored families long awaiting justice, as well as support and compensation from the state. Sadly, this law will do more than ensure impunity for past grave crimes. It will also likely pave the way for future abuses.

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