Difference Between Amnesty and Pardon

Amnesty vs Pardon

Amnesty and pardon are similar sounding words as both pertain to the acts of clemency where the executive or the supreme authority of a country chooses to excuse the offense of an individual or a group of people without exacting penalty. Someone who gets a pardon and is currently serving a prison sentence is set free from jail and is not required to serve anymore. However, despite similarities, there are also differences between pardon and amnesty that will be highlighted in this article.


This is a term that is generally used in connection with mercy or clemency shown by the chief executive towards a group of people charged with a criminal offense. This criminal offense is usually of a political nature, and the government in power chooses to forget the offense and grant amnesty to those charged with sedition or treason. These people get immunity from prosecution. There are also other examples of amnesty as when a government declares amnesty for people possessing illegal firearms if they declare their firearms and surrender them before the government. This is a chance for these people to escape punishment for keeping illegal firearms. Similarly, governments declare amnesty for tax evaders if they choose to declare their assets and pay the taxes voluntarily.


Pardon is a term that is used to refer to the act of the chief executive whereby he can set aside or mitigate the punishment given to an individual for his crime. There is a provision in constitutions of many countries where President or the chief executive can make use of his special powers to grant pardon to criminals or other offenders. Pardon is an act of mercy as it does not absolve the criminal of his offense but sets him free or lessens his sentence.

What is the difference between Amnesty and Pardon?

• Amnesty is a general pardon for groups of people, whereas pardon is for individuals.

• Pardon is used by the chief executive to mitigate or set aside the punishment of an individual for his crime.

• Amnesty is forgetfulness of the crime whereas pardon is mercy or clemency.

• Amnesty is usually reserved for offenses of political nature though governments can also declare amnesty for offenses related with firearms or tax evasion.

• Pardon excuses a criminal without exacting penalty.

• Pardon is for a criminal who has been tried and convicted whereas amnesty is for people who have not been tried.