Library of Congress

Law Library of Congress

The Library of Congress > Law Library > News & Events > Global Legal Monitor

Mongolia: Amendment to Controversial Amnesty Law Adopted

(Nov. 7, 2015) On October 29, 2015, Mongolia’s Parliament, the State Great Khural, adopted an amendment to the country’s new Law on Amnesty. The amending law took effect the same day. As a result of the law’s adoption, some 1,700 citizens will be released from prison. (The State Great Khural Finally Adopts Amnesty Law, INFOMONGOLIA.COM (last visited Nov. 3, 2015).) Under the amended Law, cases of corruption, abuse of authority, abuse of the state budget, and illegal acquisition of capital are excluded from being granted amnesty. (Id.) A short-term Law on Amnesty had been adopted in 2009, and other laws on pardon were passed in 1991, 1996, 2000, and 2006. (Wendy Zeldin, Mongolia: Amnesty Law Adopted, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Aug. 4, 2009); D. Jargalsaikhan, Tale of Three Monkeys: Polictical [sic] Parties Conspiring to Pardon Corrupt Criminals, GOGO MONGOLIA (Aug. 17, 2015).)

Features of the Law on Amnesty

The Law on Amnesty was adopted by the legislature on August 11, 2015. It provided that persons who had committed crimes before July 2, 2015, would be exempted from criminal liability, defendants would be freed from their sentences, individuals with administrative responsibilities would not face administrative penalties, and pardons would be issued to cover those crimes. (Standing Committee Chairman D.Ganbat Makes a Statement Regarding the Law on Amnesty, The State Great Khural (Parliament) of Mongolia website (Aug. 14, 2015).) In addition, persons who had committed crimes such as treason, espionage, assassination, armed rioting, sabotage, homicide, kidnapping, human trafficking, illegal obtaining of human organs, hostage-taking, rape, terrorism, terrorist financing, and illegal manufacture of narcotic and psychotropic medicines would not be subject to punishment. (Id.)

More specifically, the Law stated in article 4(3) that “pardons will release individuals from initial and additional sentences that were imposed on those who committed major crimes and are to be jailed for the first time.” (Jargalsaikhan, supra.) According to article 5(1)1, a pardon would shave three years from the remaining prison time of serious offenders, a provision that, in the view of one commentator, “would free several politicians who were found to be involved in sensational cases and pardon them from their corruption charges.” (Id.) Article 6(1)1 covered the pardons to clear the charges against convicts who had finished serving their sentences before the law’s enactment; under article 7(1), first-time serious offenders whose cases were at “the registration, investigation, or trial stage” would be cleared of charges. (Id.) Although article 9(1)7 of the draft text stated that no amnesty would be granted to persons who had committed crimes of receiving and brokering corruption, it had not included the crime of abuse of power. (Id.)

There are reportedly some 6,600 persons incarcerated in Mongolia, of whom about half are first-time offenders and about 330 of whom are women and 30 youth under the age of 18. (Id.) Had the original Law on Amnesty remained unamended, it was estimated that approximately 50% of all prisoners, “including most women and juvenile offenders,” would be pardoned, and that about200 persons serving non-prison sentences, out on probation, or subject to delayed sentences would receive amnesty. (Id.) 

Reaction to the Law on Amnesty 

The President of Mongolia, Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, vetoed certain sections of the Law of Amnesty after its adoption by the State Great Khural, determining that the legislation should exclude from pardon cases of corruption, abuse of authority, illegal acquisition of capital, and fraud. As a result, on September 15, the Legal Standing Committee of the State Great Khural held a discussion on the veto, supporting it only in part, but on the same day, during an irregular session of the legislature, the State Great Khural adopted the presidential veto and working groups were created to draft amendments in accordance with the veto. (Id.) Those actions resulted in the adoption of the amending legislation. (Mongolian Parliament Adopted Veto of President Ts. Elbegdorj on Amnesty Law, INFOMONGOLIA.COM (last visited Nov. 3, 2015).)

On October 8, 2015, the anti-corruption organization Transparency International and the UNCAC (United Nations Convention Against Corruption) Coalition, an umbrella group representing over 300 civil society organizations world-wide, had urged the State Great Khural to reject the Law on Amnesty and its provisions pardoning individuals under investigation for corruption.  In a press release, the anti-graft bodies contended that the Law “would terminate 45 out of the 55 cases that the Independent Agency against Corruption in Mongolia (IAAC) is investigating and grant amnesty to the accused. The alleged crimes involve more than 32 billion Mongolian Togrog (US$16.2 million).” (Press Release, International Organisations Call on Mongolian Parliament to Withdraw Corruption Amnesty Law, Transparency International website (Oct. 8, 2015).)

In the view of Manzoor Hasan, Chair of the UNCAC Coalition, “Mongolia is a party to the UN Convention against Corruption and the UNCAC review process already raised serious questions about the Mongolian enforcement system. This new legislation, if adopted [as it had stood], would further undermine the rule of law in Mongolia.” (Id.; United Nations Convention Against Corruption, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) website.) Mongolia signed the Convention on April 29, 2005, and ratified it on January 11, 2006. (United Nations Convention Against Corruption Signature and Ratification Status as of 1 April 2015, UNODC website (last visited Nov. 3, 2015).)

Related Development

The Great State Khural also adopted a new tax amnesty law, the Law on Supporting Economic Transparency, on August 7, 2015. A similar law had been adopted in 2008. The new Law provides that “[a]ny open tax case under criminal investigation shall be dismissed under separate amnesty law passed on Tuesday, 11 August 2015.” (Mongolia Introduces a Tax Amnesty Program, EY [Ernst & Young] (Aug. 20, 2015).) The purpose of this legislation is reportedly to rein in Mongolia’s shadow economy and increase revenue from taxes. It offers a tax amnesty to individuals and companies that declare previously undisclosed assets, shielding such entities from possible administrative sanctions and/or criminal punishment. Political appointees and civil servants are not accorded the law’s protection, however. (Michael Kohn, Hidden Assets to Curb Shadow Economy, BLOOMBERG (Aug. 10, 2015).)