• Sheet of paper Report

Annual Report: Uruguay 2010

March 19, 2011

Head of state and government Tabaré Vázquez Rosas
Death penalty abolitionist for all crimes
Population 3.4 million
Life expectancy 76.1 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) 18/15 per 1,000
Adult literacy 97.9 per cent

The law continued to grant impunity to those responsible for human rights violations under the military government (1973-1985).


José Mujica won the November presidential elections.

Uruguay’s human rights record was assessed under the UN Universal Periodic Review in May and the government accepted all the recommendations made.

Impunity for past violations

In October, a referendum was held on the proposed annulment of the 1986 Law on the Expiration of the Punitive Claims of the State (Expiry Law), which prevents cases of alleged violations committed during the military-backed governments from being reopened. However, the proposal failed to gain the majority needed to overturn the law.

In the run-up to the referendum, the Uruguayan Supreme Court delivered a landmark ruling that the Expiry Law was unconstitutional. The ruling was given in the case of Nibia Sabalsagaray, a young activist who was tortured and killed in 1974. This ruling and decisions made by the Executive to limit the application of the law were important steps towards bringing perpetrators of past human rights violations to justice.

In August, a law on reparations for victims of state repression under Uruguay’s military government (1973-1985) and the previous civilian regime (1968- 1973) was passed by the Senate.

  • In March, eight former military and police officials were sentenced to between 20 and 25 years’ imprisonment for their role in the deaths of 28 people in Operation Condor, a joint plan by Southern Cone military governments in the 1970s and 1980s to eliminate opponents.
  • In October, Gregorio Álvarez, former general and de facto president between 1980 and 1985, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for killing 37 activists in Argentina in 1978. A former marine was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment in the same case for killing 29 people.
  • In November, the former police photographer Nelson Bardesio was extradited from Argentina to Uruguay to face charges in connection with the enforced disappearance of the student Héctor Castagnetto in 1971. He was detained awaiting trial at the end of the year.

Prison conditions

The Special Rapporteur on torture visited Uruguay in March and concluded that conditions of detention were critical. He denounced the situation in Libertad Penitentiary in which convicted prisoners and pre-trial detainees were “held together like animals in metal boxes for almost 24 hours a day”. After the visit, he recommended a fundamental reform of the criminal justice and penitentiary systems.

There were reports of overcrowding, ill-treatment, inadequate health care, insufficient food supplies as well as of poor conditions for juveniles in detention and excessive use of force by security agents. According to the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Penitentiary System, more than 60 per cent of the prison population were in pre-trial detention or awaiting final sentence.

Violence against women and girls

Women who experienced gender-based violence continued to face obstacles in obtaining protection, justice and reparation. Lack of resources and inadequate training of the judiciary hindered the implementation of legislation on domestic violence. According to official figures, 23 women were killed between November 2008 and October 2009.