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Uruguay 2023

Threats to the media’s freedom of expression persisted and obstacles in access to public information remained. Record rates of imprisonment resulted in overcrowding and inhumane prison conditions. Deaths in prisons remained a concern. Some military personnel were prosecuted for crimes against humanity committed in the past, but no substantive progress was made in investigations into forced disappearances. Uruguay continued to be a hostile country for girls and women; femicides increased. Barriers to public mental health services remained. The quality of drinking water was a concern. Overall, Uruguay continued showing signs of a weakening of the system of rights guarantees.


Following the prosecution of the president’s former chief of security in February, for crimes of criminal association, the indictment of a former company executive for the illegal surveillance of two senators raised concerns about improper use of state security apparatus. The participation of authorities and officials of the Ministry of the Interior in the provision of information was being investigated.

The government failed to take effective action to address violent crime, as indicated by the rise in homicides in 2023, according to the UN Office on Crime and Drugs Global Study on Homicide 2023.

Freedom of expression

Uruguay continued to drop down Reporters Without Borders’ ranking of countries based on freedom of expression, from 44th in 2022 to 52nd in 2023. A report issued in 2023 by the local organization Centre for Archives and Access to Public Information (CAINFO) stated that 69 cases of threats to journalists were reported in 2022 and early 2023. In July, according to the media, journalists from the public television channel of the subnational government of Montevideo denounced undue pressure to cover stories benefiting the local government.

Right to information

Public institutions failed to implement policies of transparency and access to public information, as mandated in the 2008 Law 18.381 on access to public information. According to CAINFO, there were 24 episodes that demonstrated a deterioration in the application of passive transparency standards in the country. This was particularly evident during the water emergency in the Montevideo Metropolitan Area in the first half of the year, during which authorities hindered access to information on the management and quality of drinking water and how it was affecting human health.

Inhumane detention conditions

The penitentiary system continued to be overcrowded. According to the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Penitentiary System, the prison population increased steadily, reaching about 15,400 inmates. Of these, 1,167 were women, an increase of 6.9% in the number of women in detention since 2022.

Deteriorating detention conditions had a negative impact on the quality of life of persons deprived of their liberty. In 2023, 17 inmates were murdered in custody.

In September, 55 women deprived of their liberty carried out a hunger strike because they had been transferred to a different floor of the prison. They alleged that the move had worsened their conditions in detention.


Impunity for crimes against humanity and human rights violations committed during the civil-military regime (1973-1985) still prevailed, but 18 convictions of current or retired members of the military and police were established in 2023 on charges of torture, kidnapping and murder during the civil-military regime.

In June, human remains dating from the civil-military regime were found at the military facility but had not yet been identified.

Women’s and girls’ rights

In 2023, 21 women and girls were killed for gender-related reasons. Among them, according to media outlets, was a 17-year-old girl murdered by her 17-year-old former partner. The government failed to fully implement Law 19.580 on gender-based violence against women or to allocate funds to create courts to adjudicate such cases.

Despite advances in the enjoyment of sexual and reproductive rights, obstacles to implementing public policies for preventing, addressing and redressing the consequences of pregnancies in girls and adolescents under 15 years remained. According to the State Health Services Administration, between May 2021 and April 2023, 119 girls and other adolescents aged under 15 were pregnant. Authorities also indicated that of these 119 cases, 50% of the pregnancies were the result of sexual abuse and 34% occurred in a non-abusive relationship between peers. In the remaining 16% an abusive relationship could not be ruled out.

The National Integrated Care System, created in 2015, failed to provide adequate services to its target population (children under three years old, people with disabilities and older adults in a dependent situation). This failure had a direct impact on the lives of women, who do the majority of unpaid care work. According to the most up-to-date official statistics from the Ministry of Social Development, 61.4% of women’s weekly workload in Uruguay was unpaid, compared with 35.9% for men.

Right to health

Obstacles to accessing public mental health services persisted because of insufficient availability of appointments in the face of increased demand at a national level.

According to the Ministry of Health, in 2022, 823 people died by suicide, a rate of 23.2 per 100,000 inhabitants and more than twice as high as the rest of Latin America.

Right to water

For the first half of 2023, a water emergency affected part of the Metropolitan Region (departments of Montevideo and Canelones), causing drinking water shortages.1 Difficulties accessing clear and accurate information about the management of the water crisis and the quality of drinking water were reported.

In July, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation and the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights urged the government to prioritize water for human consumption. According to the State Sanitary Works (OSE) and information provided by the Faculty of Chemistry of the University of the Republic, a considerable increase in salinity levels had been affecting the quality of drinking water, impacting more than 60% of the population, particularly the most vulnerable groups.

  1. “Uruguay: Access to drinking water is a human right”, 29 May (Spanish only)