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In the movie Deathly Hallows - Part 2, we see Harry use the Imperius curse twice on a goblin at the Bank.

Being an unforgivable curse, why was Harry not sent to Azkaban after Hogwarts Battle end?

EDIT: The answers are quite right, but I'm still not satisfied. The point of the question is: if an unforgivable curse is a crime, doing it during a war is a War Crime, and a "good" system should convict its own side war criminals as well. Why did this not happen?

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I would think sending the guy who just saved the country would be frowned upon by the general public. Think what would have happened if Trueman had been convicted of war crimes because of Hiroshima or Churchill because of Dresden, Laws get ignored during times of war "For the greater good", also would they be able to prove Harry was there? –  Steven Wood Mar 21 at 8:50
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Of course they can prove it, his actions are written in great detail inside a public book ;) –  Lars Ebert Mar 21 at 9:21
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Maybe it's Gnomism. Some people might not consider Gnomes as being "equal" to humans or wizards / witches. (Is that why they're delegated to watching our lawns?) –  Meat Trademark Mar 21 at 10:32
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@StevenWood War crimes do exist precisely because Laws do not get ignored during times of war. –  Envite Mar 21 at 12:08
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My point was that the winners would rarely get prosecuted or challenged for war crimes. Otherwise most of the Soviet army would have been executed for war crimes, as would more US Presidents than I can count, British Prime Ministers etc etc, whereas Hermann Goering, Rudolph Hess etc got prosecuted at Nuremburg, The Germans were solely blamed for WW1 at Versailles, I could go on but I smell sausage rolls so Ill leave you with the thought that History is both made and written by the victors! –  Steven Wood Mar 21 at 12:15
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11 Answers 11

In Goblet Of Fire, Sirius says that Crouch (Senior) allowed the use of Unforgivable Curses in the first war against Voldemort. Its conceivable that this restriction was lifted during the second war.

The Deatheaters at Hogwarts forced students to perform Unforgivable Curses against each other. One suspects that it was "extraordinary times"

(I'd also point out that Harry used the Cruciatus Curse against Bellatrix (a human) and wasn't prosecuted for it)

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Was the restriction on unforgivable curses ever mentioned during the second war? –  Moogle Mar 21 at 14:32
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Not as far as I remember. There's very little mention of laws in general in the last two books, almost like governmental functions had broken down. –  Michael Thorpe Mar 21 at 15:13
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When the trio meet Lupin at Grimmauld Place (DH chap 11), he says something about the Death Eaters being free to do what they want without fear of punishment or arrest (including Unforgivables), but I don't know if that means they were actually made legal or the law just not enforced. –  alexwlchan Mar 21 at 18:51
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I assumed that it was because it was 'only' used on a goblin and not on a human?

The wizards do not seem to consider other species (like elves) to be equal with them so I would not be surprised if the laws for the unforgivable curses did not apply to gnomes, elves etc.

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I have a hard time separating canon from fanon, but this explanation has always rung true for me. –  Sean Duggan Mar 21 at 11:39
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Barty Crouch Jr. (disguised as Moody) says "The use of any one of them on a fellow human being is enough to earn a life sentence in Azkaban." (Goblet of Fire, Chapter 14) It does seem like the law simply doesn't apply to other sentient beings. –  Anthony Grist Jul 18 at 15:26
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We also see Deatheaters (like Lucius Malfoy) using Unforgivables (including Avada Kedavra), without getting sent to Azkaban for it -- at least not at the beginning (ie. during "the reign of terror" from the Quidditch World Cup final an onawards).

So to me, it seems like it's like in the muggle world, there is no automatic in you being punished for a crime -- you only go to jail if you're caught. And a well-done Imperious-curse, would probably leave the victim without knowledge that it's been done.

Yes, wands of young wizards -- and/or young-wizards -- are monitored, but in DH Harry has turned 18, so this will be deactivated. Yes, a wand can be question, but that only happens after there is suspicion. Besides, didn't Harry use Draco's wand?

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Harry was 17 in Deathly Hallows, not 18. His wand was not monitored anymore, so the question is still mostly correct. –  trysis Mar 21 at 18:48
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I think Stefan is right with:

I assumed that it was because it was 'only' used on a goblin and not on a human?

The wizards do not seem to consider other species (like elves) to be equal with them so I would not be surprised if the laws for the unforgivable curses did not apply to gnomes, elves etc.

My explanation:

In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, at Defence Against the Dark Arts, Alastor Moody (at this moment Bartemius Crouch jr.) casted each of the unforgivable curses on each of the spiders during the class and no one has done anything...

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Goblins may not be human, but all indications are that they’re still sentient. Not so with the spiders. I’m not saying you’re wrong, but lumping goblins and spiders together is probably painting with too broad a brush. –  bdesham Mar 21 at 14:21
    
But the ministry didn't know about those DADA lessons.And like Fudge said at the end of the book:"I've given you(Dumbledore) free rein,always.. . .I might not have agreed with some of your decisions. . .".The fact is,Fudge didn't care about what was taught at Hogwarts(until Harry's fifth year).You could argue that Malfoy would have told his father,but he probably liked (more) to see the spider twitching.Therefore,your explanation doesn't really strengthen Stefan's. –  rah4927 Mar 21 at 16:04
    
And if the Ministry knew about Moody’s DADA lessons, their concern would be less the spiders and more the entire class of students under the Imperius curse. –  alexwlchan Jul 18 at 15:19
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Unlike the first "war" when Voldy hadn't actually taken control of the Ministry (i.e. the law enforcement agencies) Harry wasn't breaking "legitimate" laws: when Voldy's lot was in control of the ministry, it was a revolution that was taking place, and it is as if all the old laws had to be "reinstated"... effectively, the laws that Harry broke would only be "enforceable" if the 'legitimate' regime was in power... when Kingsley took over, he probably couldn't prosecute Harry because the "legitimate" regime wasn't in power to have their laws violated.

Killing in war is not considered a crime: Gringott's was under control of Voldy, and when Harry crucio'd Amicus Carrow, consider this: the barometer of what is good and bad, rigth and wrong, in so much of the books, Minerva McGonnagal, uses an unforgivable (in the books) right after Harry did. (Amicus was having a bad day!)

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There's a few possibilities:

  1. Few people knew what he actually did, and it doesn't seem likely to have gotten reported.
  2. The reason why he did so was ultimately to defeat Voldemort. He could have easily backed this out in any court that might have been held.
  3. It was only done against a goblin.

Bottom line, I don't think anyone really cared in the end. He did this for a good reason, to help defeat Voldemort, and was successful. It doesn't seem like any court would prosecute him for that in the end.

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Really? It was specifically written in the book. When the ministry fell the unforgivable curses were made forgivable (and indeed, Hogwarts changed from having 'Defence Against the Dark Arts' to just 'Dark Arts' and first years were tortured as were those who had detention with the Carrows. This is also why Snape sent 'Dumbledore's Army' members to have detention with Hagrid instead of with the Carrows!). Once the second war was over, under Shacklebolt there were major changes to rid the ministry of corruption (like say, allowing Riddle to rebuild his army while the ministry conveniently denied his return). Also, just like some others suggested, Aurors were allowed to use them in the first war. Not only that, with the exception of a certain spell that regurgitates it out (first seen [if you read] in The Goblet of Fire, when they found Winky with Harry's Wand, after Morsmordre [dark mark] spell had been cast by Barty Crouch Jr. with Harry's wand), no one would have known the spell was cast for 100% sure (remember in the second year how Dobby used a hovering charm yet the ministry refused to believe it was anything but Harry and ignored the fact they could have checked?). Oh, and Harry's wand was broken when he cast Crucio on Carrow so he wasn't even using his own wand (yet another thing neglected in the film).

Never mind the other obvious reasons, of course... like say, that there was once again peace and the death eaters that still lived (like the Carrows, who were in fact tied up in Ravenclaw's tower*) as well as those who collaborated with them (e.g., the toad-like Umbridge) were now imprisoned. Or perhaps that by Voldemort following through with the prophecy there were two choices that either of them could make: 1) Do nothing and ultimately be killed by the other. 2) Do whatever it took to win or in other words have the other die.

And the most obvious reason (as if this is really needed): If it were not for Harry fulfilling the prophecy (that he was unfortunate enough to be forced in to) they'd all have been killed. The only reason the first wizarding war ended is because of Lily's sacrificial protection made Voldemort's Avada Kedavra backfire when he attempted to use it on Harry. This is mentioned by Voldemort himself in The Goblet of Fire, after he was reborn. Don't you remember him talking about 'old magic'?

This and more is all referred to in the entire series (at least for those who know how to read - they never interrogated Winky about Morsmordre in the film, for example).

*You could also ask the same question about McGonagall who used Imperio. Didn't know that? Oh, right, because that entire scene (same where Harry used Crucio on Carrow) was not in the film.

Also, I seem to remember that no, Lucius did not use or try to use Avada Kedavra. (I remember reading something about the actor specifically mentioned that there was no mention for what spell - in the script - to use and this was just the first one that came to his mind. I cannot remember too well as I read the book so long ago but I don't remember him ever even starting the incantation there before Dobby interrupted him).

Edit: Harry didn't only use Imperio on a goblin, either. He also used it on Travers, the death eater. A human. But again, they were made legal at this time. I still am dumbfounded that this is not understood. Think about it: do you really believe the death eaters who then had control over the ministry, would not allow it? They were the main users of them and they didn't care if someone was manipulated, hurt or killed and they didn't care how it was done either. In fact, they liked it (remember how Bellatrix told Harry you have to really want to cause pain in order to truly succeed in unforgivable curses? She followed with giving him a lesson by using Crucio on him. That's why he failed at that point and she showed him what she meant. Indeed, Harry even remarks about understanding it now, when he used it on Carrow in the Deathly Hallows!).

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Possible, but you seem to be under the mistaken assumption that a brutal dictatorship would take pains to make their brutal actions legal, let alone legal for everybody. –  Phira Mar 23 at 11:52
    
They did make it legal. Fact. Once the Death Eaters took over the Ministry the Unforgivables were declared forgivable (see also students at Hogwarts being told to use them). Two additional things to consider: 1) when using Imperio Harry was under his invisibility cloak [so no witness minus Griphook who as I recall was killed]. 2) None of the unforgivable curses in Deathly Hallows cast by Harry were with his wand; his was broken when Hermione used the blasting curse to get away from Voldemort's Nagini. Harry was reasonably upset but he knew she did it to save their lives. –  Cody Mar 23 at 16:49
    
As for brutal dictatorships, I beg to differ. Both in real life and the Harry Potter world. Hitler made laws to fit his agenda and changed others, as I recall. I could probably find a source on that, if you really need. –  Cody Mar 23 at 16:49
    
One more thing that just came to mind. On the subject of me being mistaken about "taking pains to make their brutal actions legal, ...": They didn't have any pain or effort involved. They simply said they are legal now and that is that. It was all corrupt. It was a dictatorship as you point out, so they don't need to write laws, vote, etc. They simply do! –  Cody Mar 23 at 17:14
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I too thought of the same when I was reading it. However, by the time deathly Hallows, part2 happened, the ministry of magic was already broken. It did not exist anymore and there was no wizard or department of ministry taking responsibility of discipline among magicians. Thats the reason there was no one to catch him.

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Harry saved wizarding Great Britain, and the old power base was totally destroyed, not only was he a Hero but also he became part of the new ministry, 19 years later he is a high ranking misnistry official, and for all we know Harry will end up Minister of Magic someday.

Remember nothing ever happens if there is no political will behind it. Wether politicians are bought, or because public opinion (is made to) favors a particular course of action. Don't fix it if it ain't broken right?

Repeat after me :There is no propblem until there is one.

Plus imagine the how badly the "light side" would suffer from that, what an amazing piece of propaganda to promote the dark arts.

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Let's assume that the respective authorities knew about this (which they may or may not have done) and that this particular use of an unforgivable curse would under normal circumstances be illegal (which it may or may not have been):
Speaking philosophically, the law is a mandatory exchange of some of your freedoms for greater security. That is why it cannot be used as an applicable measure of appropriate action in times of its own breakdown. Assuming that wizard justice normally (when it is not corrupt) functions similarly to real-world justice, the responsible authority would have to judge these actions based either on a personal sense of justice, or according to public opinion, or a mix of both. While it is possible that this authority insisted on upholding the law regardless of the situation, it seems highly unlikely.

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During the battle of Hogwarts and even before when the Ministry of Magic was over thrown the use of the "Unforgivable Curses" was made ligule.

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Wasn't that already discussed in other comments and answers? –  DVK Jul 18 at 16:30
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