Uruguay removes block on investigating military rule abuses
A presidential decree issued in Uruguay opens the door for investigations and prosecutions of an estimated 80 cases of human rights violations committed from 1973-1985. President José Mujica’s decree yesterday revoked decisions by former Presidents to block investigations into serious human rights violations committed by Uruguayan military and police. “The obstacles have finally been removed from investigating and prosecuting dozens of cases of serious human rights abuse committed during this period,” said Guadalupe Marengo, Amnesty International’s Deputy Americas Programme Director. “Uruguay must now deliver justice to the victims and relatives of those who suffered at the hands of the country’s security forces.”The 1986 Expiry Law (Ley de Caducidad de la Pretensión Punitiva del Estado) was approved after Uruguay returned to democratic rule, giving the Executive the final say over which cases of human rights violations could be investigated. In most instances in the past, Presidents have used this power to close cases, allowing those responsible to evade justice.During the years of military and civilian rule until 1985, Uruguay’s police and military committed serious human rights violations, including torture, extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances. At its peak an estimated 7,000 political prisoners were detained, the majority of whom were tortured.“These human rights violations, widespread and systematic as they were, amount to crimes against humanity and cannot be subject to a statute of limitations” said Guadalupe Marengo. An attempt in May to annul the effects of Expiry Law was narrowly defeated in Congress and the law has been upheld in two popular consultations in 1989 and 2009. Earlier this year, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that Uruguay was responsible for the disappearance in 1976 of María Claudia García Iruretagoyena de Gelman, and for hiding the identity of her daughter Macarena Gelman. The Court said the Expiry Law violates the American Convention on Human Rights and ordered the state to remove the obstacles the law represented so that investigations could take place and those responsible could be brought to justice.