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Uruguay president to allow probe into military junta crimes

Uruguay President Jose Mujica [official website, in Spanish] is removing 80 administrative acts blocking investigations into crimes committed by the military junta [Country Studies backgrounder] that ruled between 1973-85, Secretary of the Presidency Alberto Breccia announced [press release, in Spanish] Monday. Mujica, who fought the military rule as a guerilla fighter [Daily Maverick report], will issue a decree later this week revoking administrative acts issued by the executive branch under the 1986 Expiry Law [text, in Spanish] which granted amnesty to military officials accused of human rights violations during military rule. Breccia said that it will be up to the courts to determine how to proceed once the administrative acts are revoked. He referred to an Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) [official website, in Spanish] ruling in March that the amnesty law not block investigations into human rights violations. However, public referenda to overturn the law have failed twice. Last month, Uruguay's House of Representatives [official website, in Spanish] failed to partially overturn the amnesty law in a tie vote after it had already been repealed [JURIST reports] by the Senate [official website, in Spanish]. In November, the Uruguayan Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] found the law to be unconstitutional [JURIST report].

Mujicia, a leftist Senator and farmer, was elected to the presidency in a close election in November 2009. He co-founded the Tupamaro movement, an urban guerrilla force that opposed the military junta. 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.

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