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22/03/2013 | Uruguay - Justice or democracy?

The Economist Staff

An argument over past crimes - The dark days of the dictators.

 

FOR most of the past 180 years, Uruguay has been a model democracy. But it did not escape the wave of military dictatorships that swept through South America in the 1970s, at the height of the cold war. After power returned to civilians, they enacted an amnesty covering the crimes of the dictators and their guerrilla opponents alike.

The amnesty has rankled with some Uruguayans and with foreign human-rights lawyers. Its many loopholes allowed prosecutors to secure convictions of two of the dictatorship’s leading figures, Juan María Bordaberry and General Gregorio Álvarez. But many other attempts to press charges foundered.

 

After considering one such case in 2011, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) decided that Uruguay’s amnesty law breached the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights and “lacks legal effect”.

Shortly thereafter the country’s left-wing president, José Mujica, a former guerrilla who was locked up in a military prison for 14 years (and confined for two of them at the bottom of a well), issued a decree annulling the application of the amnesty law.

After heated debate, the Congress went on to approve a law scrapping the amnesty and declaring the dictatorship’s misdeeds crimes against humanity, not subject to the statute of limitations. A criminal-court judge, Mariana Mota, opened investigations into more than 50 cases of murder, torture and forced disappearance under the dictators.

But last month Uruguay’s Supreme Court ruled that much of the 2011 law was itself unconstitutional, because it was retroactive. Weeks earlier the court had announced the transfer of Ms Mota to a civil court; the cases she was handling will be greatly delayed. Both decisions were greeted with angry protests outside the court, and with criticism from international human-rights groups. The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, worried that the ruling “could restore the shadow of impunity in a country that had just begun to reconcile itself with truth and justice.”

It is more complicated than that. Uruguayans have twice voted in referendums, in 1989 and again in 2009, explicitly to uphold the amnesty law. It is true that support for annulling the amnesty rose from 42% of the vote in 1989 to 48% in 2009. But the popular will has been clearly expressed. Just like the country, the ruling Broad Front coalition is divided over the issue. Although Mr Mujica championed the 2011 law, his predecessor, Tabaré Vázquez, also from the Broad Front, has remained silent. Some lawyers think that cases can still be brought by invoking the IACHR’s judgment, but others disagree.

Uruguay thus faces a clash between popular sovereignty and international law, at least as this has evolved in the past two decades. That is not an easy conflict to resolve.

 

The Economist (Reino Unido)

 


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27/01/2009|
27/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
11/01/2009|
06/12/2008|
06/12/2008|
06/12/2008|
06/12/2008|
23/11/2008|
23/11/2008|
16/11/2008|
16/11/2008|
04/11/2008|
04/11/2008|
03/11/2008|
03/11/2008|
24/10/2008|
24/10/2008|
24/10/2008|
24/10/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
06/09/2008|
06/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
22/08/2008|
22/08/2008|
17/08/2008|
17/08/2008|
16/08/2008|
16/08/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
19/07/2008|
19/07/2008|
24/05/2008|
24/05/2008|
03/05/2008|
03/05/2008|
29/04/2008|
11/02/2008|
05/01/2008|
09/12/2007|
18/11/2007|
10/11/2007|
10/11/2007|
06/11/2007|
06/11/2007|
06/09/2007|
26/08/2007|
25/08/2007|
11/07/2007|
16/06/2007|
16/06/2007|
10/06/2007|
10/06/2007|
19/05/2007|
19/05/2007|
19/05/2007|
19/05/2007|
24/04/2007|
24/04/2007|
14/04/2007|
14/04/2007|
05/04/2007|
05/04/2007|
05/04/2007|
28/02/2007|
28/02/2007|
05/02/2007|
05/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
29/01/2007|
29/01/2007|
29/01/2007|
29/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
20/12/2006|
20/12/2006|
17/11/2006|
30/09/2006|
28/07/2006|
12/04/2006|
12/04/2006|
12/04/2006|
06/03/2006|
21/02/2006|
17/02/2006|
31/01/2006|
10/01/2006|
28/12/2005|
31/10/2005|
26/09/2005|
29/08/2005|
11/08/2005|
08/08/2005|
24/06/2005|
24/06/2005|
24/06/2005|
03/04/2005|
03/04/2005|
03/04/2005|
03/04/2005|

ver + notas
 
Center for the Study of the Presidency
Freedom House