Uruguay Senate Votes to Annul Amnesty Law For Crimes During Dictatorship

Uruguayan President José Mujica.
Uruguayan President José Mujica.
Uruguayan President José Mujica.

Today in Latin America

Top StoryUruguay’s senate voted Tuesday night to annul an amnesty law for crimes against humanity committed during the country’s 1973-85 dictatorship. In a tight vote, the annulment adopts a measure that would overrule voters who upheld the law in two previous referendums.

Partially thanks to the backing of President José Mujica, the measure passed 16-15 after a 12-hour debate. The legislation could become law on May 20 — the day Uruguay honors the political prisoners who were kidnapped and killed during the military junta — but it first needs to go through the lower house for minor changes.

If the legislation becomes law, courts could prosecute human rights violations committed in Uruguay by the Uruguayan military, fulfilling a key demand of the governing Broad Front coalition and complying with a 2009 Supreme Court ruling that found the amnesty unconstitutional.

The move has faced strong opposition from the country’s right wing and from retired members of the military, who say that the annulment would challenge a common political ground the nation has built through nearly a quarter-century of democracy.

“It’s clear now what kind of morality moves our enemies. It’s profoundly immoral, antidemocratic,” said retired Col. José Carlos Araújo, spokesman for the Liberty and Harmony forum of former military officials, according to The Washington Post. “They don’t even respect the decisions of the people.”

The military amnesty law — known as the Expiry Law– was passed in December 1986 and pardoned human rights violations during the 12-year dictatorship.  The measure protects the majority of uniformed officials with past efforts failing to overturn it.

Amnesty International has in the past called for the law to be annulled, claiming it violates Uruguay’s international legal obligation to provide justice and uncover the truths of the dictatorship.

In another recent turn of events, a court last March sentenced former President Juan Maria Bordaberry to 30 years in prison for rights violations. In 1973, he dissolved Congress and intensified a campaign against left-wing dissidents.

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Andes

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Southern Cone

Image: Presidencia de la República del Ecuador @ Flickr.

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