Annual Report 2013
The state of the world's human rights

20 May 2011

Uruguay amnesty vote a missed opportunity for justice

Uruguay amnesty vote a missed opportunity for justice

Uruguay has missed a historic opportunity in the pursuit of justice for victims of human rights abuses committed during military rule by failing to overturn a controversial law that blocked prosecution of security officials accused of violations, Amnesty International said today.

Uruguayan politicians were today unable to reach an agreement to annul the effects of the 1986 Expiry Law, a move that Amnesty International and Uruguayan human rights activists and relatives of the victims have repeatedly called for. 
 
“This would have been a huge step forward for the victims of egregious human rights abuses committed during Uruguay’s military dictatorship in the 1970s and 80s,” said Guadalupe Marengo, Deputy Director of the Americas programme at Amnesty International.

“Uruguay has a moral and legal obligation to provide justice to those who suffered from torture and other abuses – not to protect their torturers from investigation and trial.”

Amnesty International has maintained that the Expiry Law is, in practice, a blanket amnesty that for many years has protected alleged rights abusers and runs counter to Uruguay’s obligations under international law.

The law was proposed by the democratically elected government of Julio Maria Sanguinetti and approved by Uruguay’s Congress in December 1986.

Under the law, Uruguay’s president had final discretion to decide which claims of human rights abuses could be investigated.

Uruguay’s military dictatorship lasted from 1973-1985 and during its peak an estimated 7,000 political prisoners were detained, the overwhelming majority of whom claimed they were tortured.

Popular consultations in 1989 and 2009 kept the Expiry Law in effect, but recent court rulings have challenged the law’s reach.

Uruguay’s Supreme Court has on several occasions found that the Expiry Law was unconstitutional because it violated constitutional provisions as well as Uruguay’s international obligations.

On 24 March 2011, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that Uruguay was responsible for the disappearance in 1976 of María Claudia García, daughter-in-law of the Argentinean poet Juan Gelman, and for hiding the identity of her daughter Macarena Gelman.

“A chance to turn a very difficult page by removing a norm that in practice put those responsible for human rights violations above the legal system, in violation of the principle of equality before the law, has slipped through the hands of the Uruguayans,” said Guadalupe Marengo.

Read More

Uruguay must annul law that protects police and military torture suspects (Press release, 20 October 2009)

Issue

Disappearances And Abductions 
Extrajudicial Executions And Other Unlawful Killings 
International Justice 
Military, Security And Police Equipment 
Torture And Ill-treatment 
Trials And Legal Systems 

Country

Uruguay 

Region

Americas 

@amnestyonline on twitter

News

21 August 2014

Children accused of being members of armed groups in the conflict in Mali are languishing in adult jails while human rights abuses continue.

Read more »
15 August 2014

The number of killings perpetrated by the police is on the rise again in the Dominican Republic whilst legislation intended to fix the problem stalls and stagnates in Congress... Read more »

29 August 2014

The execution of two men in Japan on Friday flies in the face of growing calls in the country to halt the use of capital punishment, said Amnesty International.

Read more »
29 August 2014

Russia’s official branding of a civil society organization as a “foreign agent”, an expression akin to “spying”, for speaking out on Ukraine is a sign of the country’s... Read more »

29 August 2014

Peaceful activist Mohamed Bachir Arab has been held in secret since he was arrested by the Syrian intelligence forces on 2 November 2011. He is one of Syria's many "disappeared... Read more »