Some progress was made in bringing perpetrators of past human rights violations to justice and efforts continued to overturn the Expiry Law. Several journalists were charged with libel after reporting on impunity for human rights violations.
The 1986 Expiry Law remained in force. This grants members of the security forces immunity from prosecution for crimes committed during the military government (1973-1985). However, the Executive excluded some cases previously covered by the law, allowing investigations to progress.
In September, Uruguay ratified the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
Justice system – impunity for past violations
Scores of former military officers were called to testify in the case against the former head of military government General Gregorio Álvarez (1981-1985) and Juan Larcebeau, a retired naval officer. Both men were accused of being co-authors of the enforced disappeances of more than 30 people. In October the Appeal Court changed the charge from enforced disappearances to “aggravated homicide”.
The investigation continued into the 1976 abudction and enforced disappearance of 22 people returned to Uruguay from Argentina in a Uruguayan Air Force flight.
"...President Tabaré Vázquez vetoed a bill which would have allowed abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy..."
The investigation into the enforced disappearance of Maria Claudia García de Gelman, initially closed under the Expiry Law, was reopened in August. The move was prompted by a petition from her daughter, María Macarena, based on new evidence that she was on the 1976 Uruguayan Air Force flight. María Macarena was born in detention and raised in another family, unaware of her true identity.
Italy continued its efforts to prosecute Uruguayan military officers accused of abducting and torturing Uruguayan-Italian citizens in the context of Operation Condor, a joint plan by Southern Cone military governments in the 1970s and 1980s to eliminate opponents. One, Antranig Ohannessian, was arrested in Argentina in March, shortly before another, Jorge Tróccoli was released after Uruguay failed to request his extradition in time.
Freedom of expression – journalists
Several journalists were cleared of libel charges brought by former military officers named in their reports. In February a retired army major filed a suit against Roger Rodríguez of the newspaper La República for defamation and slander. The suit related to articles linking the retired major to the death of student Santiago Rodríguez Muela, who was shot dead in 1972 during an attack on a meeting of students, professors and parents at the Liceo Nº 8 school in the capital, Montevideo. In April the court dismissed the case, but an appeal was pending at the end of the year.
In November President Tabaré Vázquez vetoed a bill on sexual and reproductive rights which had previously been approved by Congress. This bill would have allowed abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and in cases of rape and when the woman’s life is at risk. Less than a month earlier the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women had expressed concern at the high incidence of maternal mortality, the leading cause of which is the practice of unsafe abortion.
The Committee also criticized Uruguay for the absence of a direct and clear definition of discrimination against women in its legislation as well as discriminatory provisions in the penal code. A proposal to reform the penal code was submitted to the Senate in 2005.