Head of state and government
José Alberto Mujica Cordano
Death penalty
abolitionist for all crimes
3.4 million
Life expectancy
77 years
Under-5 mortality
13.4 per 1,000
Adult literacy
98.3 per cent

In October, Congress adopted a landmark law to tackle impunity for human rights violations committed during the period of civilian and military rule (1973-1985).


A bill to legalize same-sex marriage was pending before Congress at the end of the year.

In September, five Uruguayan marines serving with the UN mission in Haiti were accused of sexually abusing an 18-year-old Haitian man, after video footage of the alleged incident appeared on the internet. Investigations in military and civilian jurisdictions were continuing at the end of the year.

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In February, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordered Uruguay to remove the obstacles blocking investigations and prosecutions for human rights violations committed during the years of civilian and military rule (1973-1985). The Court held Uruguay responsible for the enforced disappearance in 1976 of María Claudia García Iruretagoyena de Gelman, and for abducting her baby daughter María Macarena Gelman García. It ordered the state to pursue investigations to clarify María Claudia García Iruretagoyena de Gelman’s whereabouts and bring those responsible to justice. In October, a court ruled that five former military officers, already serving prison sentences, should be prosecuted for the aggravated murder of María Claudia García Iruretagoyena de Gelman.

In May, the Supreme Court concluded that two former military officers could not be charged with enforced disappearance because the crime was not incorporated into domestic law until 2006 and could not be applied retroactively. Instead, they were convicted of aggravated murder in connection with the deaths of 28 people and sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment. There were concerns that this ruling could mean that grave human rights violations would be subject to a statute of limitations. This led Congress to pass a law in October that in practice annulled the effects of the 1986 Law on the Expiration of Punitive Claims of the State (Expiry Law) and repealed statutes of limitations that would have prevented victims from filing criminal complaints.

In June, President Mujica issued a decree revoking the decisions of former presidents about which cases of alleged human rights violations could be investigated. These decisions had been made using powers granted under the Expiry Law which protected police and military personnel from prosecution for human rights violations. The June decree raised hopes that some 80 cases could be reopened.

In October, legal complaints were presented on behalf of more than 150 torture survivors.

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Prison conditions

In May, the government announced that prisoners would no longer be held in steel boxes known as “Las Latas” in Libertad Penitentiary. Following his visit to Uruguay in 2009, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture had condemned conditions in these steel modules as cruel and inhuman.

In July the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights expressed concern about serious shortcomings in the prison system including overcrowding, inadequate infrastructure and the widespread use of pre-trial detention.

By the end of the year the National Human Rights Institute and Ombudsman’s Office, one of whose roles is to implement the national preventive mechanism under the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture, had yet to be established.

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Country Visits

  • Amnesty International delegates visited Uruguay in September and October.