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Uruguay senate votes to overturn 1986 amnesty law

Uruguay's Senate [official website, in Spanish] voted 16-15 Tuesday to overturn a 1986 law [press release, in Spanish] granting amnesty to members of the military junta that ruled the country between 1973 and 1985. The decision [AP report] to repeal Uruguay's Expiry Law [text, in Spanish] means that courts will be able to prosecute military leaders whom many claim committed crimes against humanity during the junta's rule. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) [official website, in Spanish] effectively overturned the law [JURIST report] last month when it ruled [judgment, PDF, in Spanish] that Uruguay's government must bring to justice those responsible for the disappearance of a woman abducted by Uruguay government forces in 1976. In November, the Uruguayan Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] found the law to be unconstitutional [JURIST report]. Uruguay's House of Representatives [official website, in Spanish] must still approve the law.

Prior to November's judgment, Uruguay's Supreme Court had largely upheld the amnesty except in extreme circumstances, and in 2009 a popular vote failed to overturn the law [JURIST reports]. 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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