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Human rights court invalidates Uruguay military amnesty law

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) [official website, in Spanish] on Wednesday condemned [judgment, PDF; in Spanish] the Uruguayan government for its role in the abduction and death of an Argentinean woman in the 1970s, effectively overturning the country's amnesty law. Maria Claudia Garcia Iruretagoyena de Gelman was abducted from Argentina in 1976 [NYT report] and transferred to a detention center in Uruguay, where she disappeared while in the custody of government forces. The court's ruling effectively overturns Uruguay's Expiry Law [text, in Spanish], which granted military officials immunity for human rights violations that occurred during the country's 1973-1985 dictatorship [Country Studies backgrounder]. In 2009, Uruguayan voters failed to overturn the law [JURIST report] in a voter referendum that required only 50 percent majority to nullify the law. The Uruguayan Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] ruled in November that the law is unconstitutional, after previously limiting findings of unconstitutionality to certain exceptional cases [JURIST reports]. In addition to ordering an investigation into Gelman's abduction, the IACHR also ordered the Uruguayan government to make a public apology for crimes committed by the government dictatorship.

Many of the alleged kidnappings and deaths occurred in connection with Operation Condor [BBC backgrounder], a cooperative effort between the governments of Uruguay, Chile, Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil and Chile to eliminate left-wing political opponents. In June, ex-military officials in Argentina were put on trial [JURIST report] for the deaths of 65 activists in connection with Operation Condor. The Uruguayan government has also attempted to bring those responsible for the disappearance of leftist activist to justice. In 2006, eight former police and military officers were indicted by a Uruguayan court [JURIST report] on counts of kidnapping and conspiracy committed during the 1973-1985 dictatorship. The crimes were related to the 1976 disappearances of five members of an Uruguayan leftist group who fled to Argentina and were detained there by police, and who investigators suspect were victims of Operation Condor.

Read more about Uruguay's Reparations Law on JURIST's Dateline service.

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