Uruguay’s government announced June 27 that it will reopen more than 80 human rights violations allegedly committed during the 1973-85 military dictatorship.
Marking the 38th anniversary of the coup that started the regime, President José Mujica’s administration said the probe will override amnesty laws passed in 1986 that had withstood a referendum in 1989. Voters again failed to knock down the laws in another vote in 2009. In May, lawmakers failed to overturn the law in a tense vote. Under the laws, that were passed by the elected government of President Julio María Sanguinetti, who governed from 1985 to 1990 and from 1995 to 2000, cases tried would go ahead at the discretion of the president, not the judicial branch.
Presidential secretary, Alberto Breccia, said Mujica, a former guerrilla who had fought the military dictatorship, decided to knock down the administrative barriers to trying the cases for “ethical reasons.”
Earlier this year, the San José, Costa Rica-based Inter-American Court of Human Rights, an arm of the Organization of American States, ruled that the Uruguay must investigate and punish those responsible for the heinous human rights crimes committed during that military regime.
Hundreds were killed and tortured during the dictatorship and dozens of children were kidnapped at birth from their parents and raised under false identities.
These investigations aim to create a genetic database to clear those crimes up, the government said.
“Uruguay should take immediate steps to hold those responsible for enforced disappearances to account, whether or not the crime was on the books in Uruguay in the late 1970s,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas Director at Human Rights Watch, before Mujica’s government’s announcement. “Victims and their families have already waited for far too long for justice.”