Sunday 30 October 2011

Uruguay: Congress votes to overturn amnesty law

Uruguay's Congress has voted to lift an amnesty law that protected officers from prosecution for crimes committed during military rule from 1975 to 1983, paving the way for possible future trials.

The vote was 50-40 and the bill is now expected to be signed by President Jose Mujica in the nick of time - the statute of limitations would have kicked in on 1 November.

Human rights activists, naturally, have welcomed the move. It was still a difficult decision in Uruguay, as illustrated by the fact that the congressional debate lasted 12 hours. While Luis Puig, a deputy with the ruling Broad Front coalition, called the measure an end to impunity, opponents have presented it as ignoring the will of the people since the amnesty law has been upheld in two referendums. It's a little more complicated than that though; for a start, the country's supreme court had ruled the law unconstitutional. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights had also insisted that Uruguay must remove the law. The referendum result had also been close, around 48%, narrowly missing the required 50%.

We will have to see what the end to the amnesty brings. The military is attempting a pre-emptive strike and already calling for prosecutions for former guerrillas.

Uruguay overturns amnesty for military-era crimes
Uruguay Lawmakers Revoke Dirty War Amnesty (Time)
Uruguay scraps 'dirty war' amnesty (Aljazeera)

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