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Uruguay 2022

The social and economic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic continued to impact groups in vulnerable situations. There were several attacks on journalists and the media, threatening freedom of expression. Record rates of imprisonment resulted in inhumane prison conditions. Deaths in prison remained a concern. Violence against women and girls continued to escalate, with a rise in the number of reported femicides and child killings. Although some military personnel were prosecuted for ordinary offences amounting to crimes against humanity committed during the civil-military regime (1973-1985), no substantive progress was made in clarifying the fate of those forcibly disappeared under that regime.


Socio-economic inequalities deepened as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, 7.3% of the population was severely food insecure. In October, the University of the Republic Faculty of Social Sciences presented a report indicating that, although the number of food banks decreased compared to 2021, the monthly food portions served remained the same, with little variation.

Following the indictment of the president’s security chief for passport forgery, alleged acts of espionage against two opposition senators, illegal surveillance of civilians, as well as alleged acts of police corruption, came to light, indicating worrying signs of an institutional crisis.

The election of a new National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) board in August did not follow the required legal procedures and was marred by interference from political parties. According to local organizations and OHCHR, the UN’s human rights office, this weakened the NHRI. Some prosecutors publicly criticized interference and investigations by the Executive Branch in the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Uruguay’s review by the UN Committees on Torture, Human Rights and Enforced Disappearances found a weakening of the National Mechanism for Reporting and Follow up and a lack of dialogue with civil society.

Freedom of expression

Uruguay fell 26 places in Reporters Without Borders’ ranking on freedom of expression, dropping from 18th to 44th on its list of countries.

A report issued in 2022 stated that 51 cases of threats to journalists were reported during 2021 and at least two journalists and media outlets faced legal actions for the content of their research. Public officials, ministers and senators continued to use stigmatizing language in relation to journalists and media.

In July, the UN Human Rights Committee expressed its concern about the increase in criminal prosecutions, threats and restrictions on freedom of expression.

In September, the Police Union requested that the Ministry of the Interior carry out an urgent investigation as they had received information that many police officers had had their mobile phones tapped. In December, journalists from the newspaper El Observador had to disseminate information of high public interest through channels outside the institution where they worked, affecting their right to freedom of press. The information that came to light related to the possible irresponsible and dangerous use of the state security system for illegal surveillance and espionage.

The National Administration of Public Education banned students from demonstrating inside secondary schools in Montevideo to demand better school funding. Authorities threatened to use the police to evict protesting students.

Access to public information

According to a number of NGOs, several public information requests received no or unsatisfactory responses. A bill to amend Law No. 18.381 on access to public information remained before parliament at the end of the year. If approved, this would create further obstacles to transparency.

In September, the president’s security chief was charged with forging documents. During the arraignment the judge did not allow the press to be admitted and declared it a closed hearing, in breach of Code of Criminal Procedure provisions on public hearings.

Inhumane detention conditions

Already harsh prison conditions deteriorated during the year. The penitentiary system experienced severe overcrowding with the number of inmates reaching 120% of intended capacity. According to the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Penitentiary System, the prison population increased steadily, reaching 14,497 by the end of the year. During the year, 42 inmates died in custody.

In 2022 Uruguay had the highest rate of incarceration per capita in South America (411 per 100,000 inhabitants), according to the Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner. In the context of intense overcrowding and insanitary conditions, 13 people died in prison from non-violent causes during the year. The number of women deprived of their liberty continued to increase, reaching 1,034.


Fourteen current or retired members of the military and police were convicted of torture, kidnappings and killings under the civil-military regime in the 1970s and 1980s. Authorities made no substantive progress in the search for victims of enforced disappearances during that time as no new evidence was found at the excavation sites and those suspected of criminal responsibility did not provide any new information.

Legislators presented a bill proposing that detainees over 65 be placed under house arrest. If approved, this could benefit as many as 200 people, including more than 20 people serving prison sentences for crimes against humanity. There were concerns that the bill would act as a pardon for those convicted of crimes under international law during the military regime.

Right to health

According to the Ministry of Health, in the first half of 2022 there was a 25% increase in the suicide rate compared to the same period in 2021. Five years after the mental health law (No. 19.529) was passed, the law had yet to be properly implemented, negatively impacting access to mental health services.

Violence against women

According to the Observatory on Gender-Based Violence and Access to Justice, the number of femicides increased in 2022; 24 femicides were recorded and at least eight children were killed in incidents related to gender-based violence, most of them femicides. There were also obstacles to the implementation of the law on gender-based violence (Law No. 19.580) because of the failure to allocate the resources needed to establish multipurpose courts able to deal with all matters related to gender-based violence.

Sexual and reproductive rights

Public policy regarding pregnancy among children under 15 did not make significant progress. According to the State Health Services Administration, 108 girls and adolescents under 15 were pregnant in 2021, of whom 50 gave birth and 58 had abortions. Violence and sexual abuse were factors in most of these pregnancies.

Comprehensive sexuality education programmes were not implemented on a mandatory basis and there was no plan to change the curriculums in primary or secondary public, private, religious or secular schools.