[JURIST] Uruguayan voters on Sunday rejected an initiative to end the country's Expiry Law [text, in Spanish], which grants amnesty to military officials accused of human rights violations during the countrys 1973-1985 dictatorship. With approximately 48 percent voting in support, the referendum [text, PDF, in Spanish] to overturn the law fell short [El Pais report, in Spanish] of the required 50 percent majority to nullify. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website, in Spanish] last week urged [press release] voters to overturn the law, stating that the victims of the human rights violations deserved justice. AI alleges that 99 percent of political prisoners held under the dictatorship, numbering up to 7,000, claim to have been tortured.
Last week, the Uruguay Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] found [JURIST report] the Expiry Law unconstitutional. The court's ruling applies only to the case of Nibia Sabalsagaray, allegedly murdered by the military in 1974. The Court ruled that the law violated separation of powers and constitutional sovereignty [El Pais report, in Spanish]. Though the law was not overturned by referendum Sunday, the ruling is likely to influence future decisions. Adopted in 1986 and upheld by a previous referendum in 1989, the law requires judges to consult executive officials to determine its applicability when hearing cases involving human rights violations. In 2005, Argentina's Supreme Court struck down similar amnesty laws [JURIST report] adopted in the 1980s to protect potential defendants, prompting the government to reopen hundreds of human rights cases.