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Uruguay: Revocation of Expiry Law allows investigation into past rights abuses

last updated Nov 29, 2011

The Uruguayan Parliament has adopted a law which allows the judiciary to investigate crimes against humanity perpetrated under the military regime between 1973 and 1985. So far, the prosecution of such crimes was impeded by the so-called Expiry Law (Law No. 15.848, 1986) which prohibited the State’s power to investigate crimes committed by military personnel or police forces before 1 March 1985.

The military regime in Uruguay, like in many other countries in the region, was responsible for grave human rights violations, in particular, enforced disappearances, torture and abduction of children of political dissidents. Uruguay’s Expiry Law differed from other amnesty laws in the region because the President could open cases. In reality, only few cases were investigated and many were blocked by the Executive which constituted a clear violation of the Uruguayan Constitution and International Human Rights Law.


Despite the existence of the Expiry Law, two presidents of the military regime – President Bordaberry (1973-1976) and President Alvarez (1981-1985) have been convicted for crimes that were not covered by the amnesty. The decisive moment to revoke the Expiry Law came in February, when the Inter-American Court of Human Rights decided that the Expiry Law had no legal effect vis-à-vis the American Convention on Human Rights. Due to the adoption of Law No. 18.831 the judiciary can now independently investigate human rights violations committed under the military regime without any political obstacles.


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