The Uruguayan Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] ruled Monday that amnesty granted for crimes committed by the country's 12-year dictatorship is unconstitutional. The Expiry Law [text, in Spanish], adopted in 1986, granted amnesty to military officials accused of human rights violations during the country's 1973-1985 dictatorship [Country Studies backgrounder]. The court's ruling will allow investigators to proceed [El Pais report] with 20 murder cases against Uruguay's former dictator, Juan Maria Bordaberry [JURIST news archive]. Voters upheld the amnesty law [AP report] in national referendums twice. Currently, the Broad Front [party website website, in Spanish], a coalition of government leftists, is seeking a piece of legislation that supersedes the Expiry Law. The initiative was partially approved in the Chamber of Deputies, but has not yet been approved by the Senate.
In February, Bordaberry was sentenced to 30 years in prison [JURIST report] for his role in the country's 1973 military coup. Bordaberry was arrested in 2006 on charges of murder and was later charged with violating Uruguay's constitution [materials, in Spanish]. The Uruguayan Supreme Court also addressed the Expiry Law in an October 2009 ruling, finding it unconstitutional [JURIST report] as it applied to the case of Nibia Sabalsagaray, who was allegedly murdered by the military in 1974. The court concluded that the law violated separation of powers and constitutional sovereignty [El Pais report, in Spanish]. 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.