Uruguay
Head of state and government
José Alberto Mujica Cordano

Steps were taken to end impunity for crimes committed during the civil and military rule (1973-1985), including efforts to establish the identity of victims of enforced disappearance.

Background

Political debate centred around measures to combat crime and increase public security. In this context, the Electoral Court announced in September that enough signatures had been collected to hold a popular referendum to amend the Constitution and reduce the age at which juveniles can be tried as adults from 18 to 16.

In May, Parliament nominated members to the National Human Rights Institution, one of whose roles is to establish a national mechanism to prevent torture. At the end of the year this mechanism was still not functioning.

In December, Uruguay passed legislation to ratify the Optional Protocol to the ICESCR.

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Impunity

In March, President Mujica publicly recognized the state’s responsibility for the enforced disappearance of María Claudia García Iruretagoyena de Gelman and the abduction of her baby daughter, María Macarena Gelman García, in 1976. Public recognition was one of the measures called for in a 2011 ruling on the case by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

  • In March, the remains of Ricardo Blanco Valiente, who disappeared in 1978, were found in a military barracks outside Montevideo.
  • In September, forensic experts also identified the bodies of Luis Guillermo Vega, a Chilean national; and Horacio Abeledo and Roque Montenegro, both Argentine nationals. The three men had been abducted in 1976 in Argentina and their bodies were found the same year in Uruguay.
  • In March, a former police officer was charged with complicity in the killing of teacher and journalist Julio Castro in August 1977. Julio Castro had been abducted by the military and tortured while held in a clandestine detention centre. The judicial process was continuing at the end of the year.
  • In September, four Uruguayan marines serving as UN peacekeepers in Haiti were charged in Uruguay with “private violence” against a young man. However, no charges were brought in response to the victim’s allegations of sexual assault. The trial was continuing at the end of the year.
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Sexual and reproductive rights

In October, Congress passed legislation giving women access to legal abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. The law establishes a mandatory five-day reflection period and a review of cases by a panel of experts when voluntary abortion is requested. When pregnancy is a result of a rape, abortion is legal up to the 14th week of pregnancy and a judicial complaint must be filed. Women’s and human rights groups welcomed the law as a step forward to stop unsafe abortions, but expressed concern that the new compulsory requirements could become obstacles to access to legal abortions. The law also decriminalizes abortions beyond the first trimester when the woman’s health is at risk or when the foetus would not survive.

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Prison conditions

In December, after a visit to Uruguay the UN Special Rapporteur on torture welcomed recent steps to improve prison conditions but drew attention to the persistent shortcomings including overcrowding and inadequate infrastructure.

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Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people

At least five transsexual women were killed in 2012. In only one of the cases was the person responsible brought to justice.

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