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Former Uruguay military chief sentenced to 25 years for homicides during dictatorship

[JURIST] Former Uruguay military dictator and army chief Gregorio Alvarez was convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to 25 years in prison Thursday for his role in 37 homicides during the country's 1973-1985 military rule [LOC backgrounder]. Alvarez, who served as commander in chief and later as de facto president, was allegedly responsible for the secret transfers and disappearance [El Pais report, in Spanish] of about 150 political prisoners in 1978, all of whom are presumed dead. Also Thursday, former navy captain Juan Carlos Larcebau was sentenced to 20 years on charges of aggravated homicide for his role in the killings of 29 people during the same era. Alvarez, who was indicted [JURIST report] for crimes against humanity in 2007, was not present in court when the sentence was handed down, citing illness.

Last week, the Uruguay Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] ruled that the country's 1986 amnesty law [text], which has prevented suspects accused of human rights violations during the country's dictatorship from being brought to trial, is unconstitutional [JURIST report]. That ruling applied only to that particular case, but may set a precedent for future cases. In 2006, eight former Uruguay police and military officers were indicted [JURIST report] on counts of kidnapping and conspiracy related to the 1976 disappearances of five members of a Uruguayan leftist group who fled to Argentina and were detained by police.

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