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Amnesty (from the Greek amnestia, oblivion) is an act of grace by which the supreme power in a state restores those who may have been guilty of any offence against it to the position of innocent persons. It includes more than pardon, inasmuch as it obliterates all legal remembrance of the offence. Amnesties, which may be granted by the crown alone, or by act of parliament, were formerly usual on coronations and similar occasions, but are chiefly exercised towards associations of political criminals, and are sometimes granted absolutely, though more frequently there are certain specified exceptions. Thus, in the case of the earliest recorded amnesty, that of Thrasybulus at Athens, the thirty tyrants and a few others were expressly excluded from its operation; and the amnesty proclaimed on the restoration of Charles II of England did not extend to those who had taken part in the execution of his father. Other celebrated amnesties are that proclaimed by Napoleon on March 13, 1815, from which thirteen eminent persons, including Talleyrand, were excepted; the Prussian amnesty of August 10, 1840; the general amnesty proclaimed by the emperor Franz Josef I of Austria in 1857; the general amnesty granted by President of the United States Andrew Johnson after the American Civil War in 1868; and the French amnesty of 1905. The last act of amnesty passed in Great Britain was that of 1747, which proclaimed a pardon to those who had taken part in the second Jacobite Rebellion.

(from an old encyclopedia)

Amnesty is often now used as a short form of the human rights organization Amnesty International.

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