Definition of amnesty in English:



  • 1An official pardon for people who have been convicted of political offences:

    ‘an amnesty for political prisoners’
    • ‘They were each sentenced to 29 years in prison but were released in 1992 as part of an amnesty granted to political prisoners, having served only five years of their sentence.’
    • ‘However, successive Argentine presidents have signed legislation granting amnesties to the military and hampering efforts to achieve justice, despite the mounds of evidence that have been uncovered.’
    • ‘They were more like colonies of runaway slaves in the Americas, and like them negotiated with the government as equals over pardons and amnesties.’
    • ‘A later part, however, refers to amnesties being granted only to ‘all pardoned political prisoners’.’
    • ‘Constitutionally, only the king can grant partial or complete amnesty to anyone convicted in Cambodia.’
    • ‘No amnesty may be granted to him, nor can he be ransomed.’
    • ‘He was eventually given a pardon under a general amnesty in 1945 at the age of 59.’
    • ‘Nonetheless, usage often views these terms as interchangeable, so that persons not yet tried are pardoned and prisoners serving sentences are granted an amnesty.’
    • ‘Thereafter, the Legislative Assembly granted amnesty for political crimes committed during the war.’
    • ‘He said amnesties granted by the president would offer those officials who had received commissions a ‘chance to repent’ and would contribute to solving the case.’
    • ‘And this entity should also incorporate human rights into its charter, exclude perpetrators of war crimes from government posts and police forces and grant no amnesties to those convicted of such crimes.’
    • ‘Pressure was also brought by the newspapers and caused Parliament to vote for, in the name of the unity of France, an amnesty, which pardoned the 13 convicted Alsatians.’
    • ‘Though the corrupt city councilors may get away from the penalty of the law in granting the amnesty, they cannot escape the punishment of the voters in the future.’
    • ‘In Peru, as in other Latin American countries in which official violence was widespread, a sweeping amnesty law is still on the books.’
    • ‘The government is to discuss a general amnesty for prisoners convicted of crimes that might be politically motivated, a senior official said yesterday.’
    • ‘‘He will be given an amnesty, pardoned, after being judged guilty,’ he told the newspaper during a recent visit to Rome.’
    • ‘But this time the jails of the world will be less full - the coup leaders were granted an amnesty.’
    • ‘He immediately issued an amnesty for those convicted of or charged with political offences since October 1968.’
    • ‘Refusing to grant political amnesty exacerbates the wounds of conflict.’
    • ‘Although death sentences are handed down in Myanmar, they often are commuted on appeal, by presidential pardon or in occasional amnesties.’
    pardon, pardoning, reprieve
    release, discharge, liberty, freedom
    absolution, forgiveness, dispensation, remission, indulgence, clemency, mercy
    let-off, letting off
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 An undertaking by the authorities to take no action against specified offences during a fixed period:
      ‘a month-long weapons amnesty’
      • ‘And it comes after Greater Manchester Police recently announced their own plans for an amnesty to reduce firearms offences.’
      • ‘Police are hoping people will take advantage of the amnesty to hand over weapons at stations before the penalties are made law.’
      • ‘However, there are no plans at this time to have an amnesty on illegal weapons.’
      • ‘A portion of the 500-plus people given advice can expect a phone call from the police in the next couple of weeks after the amnesty's six-month trial period ended.’
      • ‘The month-long amnesty is being held to encourage people to hand in any illegally held firearms and ammunition without fear of prosecution.’
      • ‘More than 1,000 weapons, including 450 guns, have been handed in during the amnesty, with more weapons still coming in to divisional police stations.’
      • ‘The streets of south Essex could be rid of hundreds of firearms in a month-long amnesty to crack down on gun crime.’
      • ‘The 2005 budget also contains a temporary tax amnesties and an emphasis on the collection of arrears from powerful big business cartels.’
      • ‘During the month-long amnesty, 95 weapons were dropped off in the first seven days followed by 222 in the second week.’
      • ‘The report goes on to recommend amnesty for any person convicted of possession of cannabis under current or past legislation.’
      • ‘Yet in Chile, as in several other countries that have experimented with large-scale amnesties, the formula of truth not justice has failed.’
      • ‘The month-long amnesty for real firearms and other deadly weapons followed a successful two-month campaign to rid the streets of fake firearms.’
      • ‘West Yorkshire Police have launched an amnesty on offensive weapons in the Wakefield and Pontefract areas.’
      • ‘Ballistic bags will be provided at Bradford police stations during the month-long amnesty which is aimed at stemming Britain's growing illegal gun culture.’
      • ‘The four-week amnesty, involving all police forces in England, Scotland and Wales, to reduce the number of illegal guns in society was launched last week.’
      • ‘Some members of York's criminal fraternity believed the temporary amnesty to be a ‘set up’ and that they would be arrested on sight, and would therefore not be attending.’
      • ‘The weapons amnesty is receiving wide support.’
      • ‘So if a person takes advantage of the amnesty, other plaintiffs can still sue the person later, though the RIAA cannot.’
      • ‘Six confessed militants who surrendered to authorities under a government amnesty in July have since been released.’
      • ‘He added that thousands of people had also taken advantage of the recent amnesty period for those illegally receiving social grants to come forward and have them stopped.’


  • Grant an official pardon to:

    ‘the guerrillas would be amnestied and allowed to return to civilian life’
    • ‘Are aliens really visiting the Earth, and if so, should we amnesty them and give them vote?’
    • ‘They were opened in the late 1950s and lead to a prison sentence in 1959, which was amnestied in 1964.’
    • ‘Surrendering warriors have been greeted with open arms; some are amnestied, while others, especially foreign ones, are imprisoned.’
    • ‘Unperturbed, he pressed ahead with a policy of reconciliation, drawing up a civil concord whereby armed groups would be amnestied if they laid down their arms.’
    • ‘Noted by the French ambassador in the United States for their moderate behavior and sincere expressions of repentance, all the Grouchys were amnestied in 1819 and returned to France the following year.’
    • ‘The Stalinist model files described in this section survived in Romania until 1962, when political prisoners started to be amnestied and the secret police underwent the fundamental changes discussed in the next section.’
    • ‘He was amnestied after re-assembling his group in Mexico and landed on November 20, 1956.’
    • ‘In January 2002, a local ruler amnestied seven former high-ranking officials wanted by the United States, including the former ministers of defense and justice.’
    • ‘The Republic ultimately reached reconciliation, though, with the ‘political’ savages when it amnestied them and investigated their jailers.’
    • ‘Against the bitter resistance of the MHP, the Justice Minister had prevented the few policeman condemned for torture being amnestied, which aroused the anger of fascists and policemen against him.’
    • ‘Yet crimes against humanity should never be amnestied or ignored.’
    • ‘This was due to the fact that all fighters from ANO were amnestied according to the Framework Agreement of Ochrid.’
    pardon, grant an amnesty to, reprieve
    release, discharge, liberate, free
    forgive, excuse, exempt, spare, deliver
    deal leniently with, be lenient on, be lenient to, be merciful to, show mercy to, have mercy on
    let off, let off the hook, go easy on
    View synonyms


Late 16th century: via Latin from Greek amnēstia forgetfulness.