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Uruguay Human Rights - History

Uruguay Human Rights - History

Prison and detention center conditions continued to be poor and potentially life threatening in some facilities. A 2016 report to parliament classified 26 percent of prisons as having conditions of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment and 33 percent with insufficient conditions for rehabilitation.

Physical Conditions: Parliament’s special rapporteur on the prison system reported that severe overcrowding affected sections of prisons in the departments of Canelones, Maldonado, Tacuarembo, Salto, Artigas, Treinta y Tres, and Cerro Largo as well as the capital city of Montevideo. A report to parliament by the National Mechanism against Torture (MNP) entity, under the country’s National Institution of Human Rights (INDDHH), reported that in 2016 the major deficiencies of the prison system were endemic and that prison authorities had not made significant advancements. The report described overcrowding, a high proportion of prisoners without sentences, severe garbage disposal problems affecting hygiene and environment conditions, management problems affecting facilities and services, a lack of socioeducational programs for prisoner reinsertion into society, and inadequate classification of prisoners due to a lack of uniform and coherent criteria (particularly for women).

The situation for female inmates varied around the country. The MNP reported 60 percent of women were located in two facilities in Montevideo, including one for mothers with children. Children accompanying their mothers lived in facilities with problems such as poor planning and design, security concerns due to a lack of prisoner classification, health and environmental concerns for young children, a lack of specialized services and facilities, and undefined and unclear policies for special-needs inmates. The remaining 40 percent of women prisoners were held in separate facilities within male prisons throughout the country. According to the INDDHH, women were located in the worst parts of the units. This led to difficulties in access to food, intimate spaces, and visits with family members as well as difficulties obtaining information and technical and human resources.

The MNP reported that in December 2016 (latest information available) the National Institute for Adolescent Social Inclusion held 470 juvenile offenders in its facilities, of whom 98 were awaiting sentencing. Some were imprisoned at age 17 and remained in prison for up to five years. In July Carolina Barbara, coordinator for the rights of children of the World Organization Against Torture, visited facilities and reported continued mistreatment of inmates, unresolved understaffing problems, and excessive use of preventive detention.

The special rapporteur reported that 29 of 47 prisoner deaths in 2016 were due to prisoner-on-prisoner violence and 12 prisoner deaths were a result of suicide. In 2016 there were more homicides and suicides in prisons than in any of the previous 11 years. Most deaths (71 percent) took place in Units 3 and 4, the largest prison facilities in Montevideo. The lack of educational and occupational activities for inmates was a major source of fighting and death among inmates. Shortages in personnel and basic elements of control, such as security cameras, made prevention, control, and clarification of facts in security incidents difficult. The rapporteur added that shortages of prison staff to securely transport and accompany inmates affected prisoners’ ability to participate in workshops, classes, sports, and labor-related activities. Some lawyers held video conferences with their clients due to the unsafe conditions that prevented them from visiting certain modules in Montevideo.

The special rapporteur noted many inmates had mental health problems that were not treated in prison. He added it was difficult for inmates to access psychological or psychiatric help or to participate in social programs or support groups to prevent suicidal acts. Annual clinics had been discontinued, and often operational difficulties (lack of officials, overwhelming workload, lack of coordination) prevented inmates from being taken to medical appointments. The public mental health hospitals that received prisoners suffered overcrowding and infrastructure problems.

In June a court ruled against the government on a writ of protection case on behalf of seven prisoners suffering from serious malnutrition due to bullying from other prisoners. The court decision established a 72-hour period for the government to relocate the prisoners, provide them proper access to food and hygiene products, and prepare individualized recovery plans, and prison officials complied.

Administration: Independent authorities investigated allegations of inhuman conditions. The Office of Probation Measures continued to lack sufficient human and financial resources to work in most of the country’s 19 departments.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring by independent nongovernmental observers, local human rights groups, media, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and international bodies. Parliament’s special rapporteur on the prison system, the INDDHH, and the MNP were also allowed to monitor prisons.

Improvements: The MNP reported that the National Institute for Rehabilitation (INR) closed a maximum-security area in a Montevideo unit because of its poor conditions, following recommendations from the special rapporteur. The INR launched a program to assist migrant and foreign prisoners with legal and psychological counseling, translation and communication services, and socioeducational support. The Gender and Diversity Unit of the INR organized programs for inmates on gender discrimination; gender-based violence; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex rights; and the role of men in society and the culture of machismo. The diversity unit also implemented a protocol to better address the situation of children of prisoners. In addition, the unit trained INR employees to manage security issues with a gender perspective in mind.

The INR and a local bank signed an agreement to provide banking services to prisoners engaged in small businesses inside Punta de Rieles prison. In August the INR and the National Weather Service signed an agreement for prisoners to do building and maintenance work at weather forecasting stations throughout the country. The INR and the Montevideo municipality agreed to allow prisoners to perform maintenance and repair work in the city.

Punta de Rieles prisoners toured Montevideo neighborhoods to educate youth about the negative personal impact of being in prison and the challenges of facing life after release. Four female inmates in Montevideo opened a delicatessen for prison guards, prisoners, and family members.


Human Rights in Uruguay: Democracy, Decency and Impunity

Uruguay is often lauded for its commitment to democracy and its relatively strong record of respect, protection, and fulfillment of the full range of civil, political, social, economic, and cultural human rights. Indeed, its positive reputation is generally well deserved. However, Uki Goni's recent commentary in the International New York Times on Uruguay fails to mention one of its greatest moral, political, and legal failures which undermines his idealized account of Uruguayan democracy and progressive politics.

While he rightly acknowledges Uruguay's legacy of racism and slavery, and the continued manifestations of racism in Uruguay today, he leaves out one of the most violent and brutal periods of Uruguay's history.

Uruguay's military dictatorship (1973-1985) was vicious and ruthless and Uruguay has failed to hold its perpetrators to account. Torture was widespread and Uruguay had the highest percentage of political prisoners of the Latin American dictatorships.

It is impossible to do justice to Uruguay's history without acknowledging this period. It had a devastating impact on the country. The failure to hold the military dictators and their accomplices accountable in Uruguay's courts continues to undermine Uruguay's commitment to ending impunity, respecting human rights, and upholding the rule of law. Such impunity causes particularly acute suffering to the survivors of these human rights violations and to family members of those who were murdered, tortured, and 'disappeared' by the military dictatorship.

Uruguayan democracy will be incomplete and at odds with fundamental and non-derogable international human rights law until Uruguay confronts its past honestly, openly, and without repression and finally brings to justice those who destroyed Uruguay's democracy until civilian control was finally restored to the government.


Justice at a crossroads in Uruguay

Tabare Vazquez must tackle the unresolved matter of accountability for dictatorship crimes in Uruguay.

On March 1, Uruguay celebrated the beginning of a new presidential mandate by Tabare Vazquez of the left-wing Frente Amplio coalition. At the same time, the country also commemorated a historic moment: The 30th anniversary of the democratic transition after over a decade-long brutal dictatorship.

Indeed, on March 1, 1985, the swearing in of president Julio Maria Sanguinetti formally brought to an end the civic-military regime that had been governing since June 1973, a regime that earned Uruguay the infamous nickname of “the torture chamber of Latin America“, for having the largest number of political prisoners per capita in the world.

Thirty years on, responding to the human rights violations committed during Uruguay’s darkest hour remains an unfinished business. Thousands of torture victims have never had access to justice for what they suffered or have not been adequately compensated. Hundreds of mothers and relatives of victims of enforced disappearances are passing away without knowing what happened to their loved ones.

Truth-seeking investigations have often been limited to disappearances and assassinations, leaving other forms of brutality (especially torture, political imprisonment and sexual violence) unaddressed and unexplored. Uruguayan society as a whole has yet to fully process and incorporate what occurred during the dictatorship, not only in history books, but also in its very social and political being.

Horrors of the dictatorship

For 25 years, an amnesty law (the so-called Ley de Caducidad) enacted by Parliament in 1986 prevented any investigation into the horrors of the dictatorship. This law was eventually overturned in October 2011. Yet, justice has remained elusive, with judicial proceedings stalling lately and obstacles to accountability and truth-seeking raised by the Ministry of Defence and the Supreme Court of Justice.

A recent report by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) expressed its concern with what it labelled a “paralysis in the investigation of human rights violations”, pointing to the repeated hindrances in truth and justice in Uruguay. The commission particularly emphasised how the country should not accept “a legacy of impunity” and “silence”.

Indeed, despite there being 256 criminal cases making their way through the judicial system, only six (two percent) have been completed with a final sentence from the Supreme Court. The vast majority, 63 percent (164 cases) are at the pre-indictment stage and just three percent (eight cases) reached the indictment phase. Moreover, since the overturning of the amnesty in 2011, only one new trial was initiated in March 2012 and just six trials were concluded in the three years since. In Argentina, during the same time period, 58 trials were completed. The contrast could not be starker.

Vazquez is no newcomer to this issue. Undeniably, most progress on accountability for past crimes took place during Vazquez’s first presidential mandate between 2005 and 2010. In fact, important verdicts for human rights violations were then dictated by the country’s courts, including against former dictators Juan Maria Bordaberry and Gregorio Alvarez.

While Uruguay has been recognised worldwide as a leader for legalising same-sex marriage and abortion as well as other progressive social reforms, it has been internationally criticised for its conservative stance on justice for the dictatorships' crimes.

Excavations on military premises led to the discoveries of the remains of some victims of disappearance and reparations laws (albeit suffering from significant shortcomings) were sanctioned for victims.

During the presidency of his successor Jose Mujica (2010-2015), accountability slowed down, leading to the paradoxical situation where, while Uruguay has been recognised worldwide as a leader for legalising same-sex marriage and abortion as well as other progressive social reforms, it has been internationally criticised for its conservative stance on justice for the dictatorships’ crimes.

New opportunity for justice?

The question of the recent past has, however, been under the spotlight recently and the new president will have to deliver on this issue. Just before being elected for his second mandate, a group of 60 international academics sent an open letter to Vazquez and his opponent, calling on whoever was elected to urgently work on justice, truth and reparations in the next period of government.

Similarly, Wilder Tayler, secretary-general of the ICJ, asserted that in Uruguay impunity was “not inevitable”, hoping that the next government would show determination and leadership in addressing the issue of the recent past. Finally, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights will continue to monitor Uruguay’s compliance with its 2011 Gelman sentence, so pressure is on Uruguay to finally meet the court’s recommendations.

Vazquez has already vowed to continue investigations into the fate of the disappeared. Recently, he also launched a Working Group on Truth and Justice, composed of leading political and religious figures and with an ambitious mandate of gathering information on past crimes as well as monitoring trial and reparations proceedings. The Working Group is yet to embark on its task so it is premature to make any assessment.

However, as the director of Amnesty International Uruguay stated a few days ago: “In order to obtain justice, it is necessary for the judiciary to conduct its work, having access to information.” Therefore, it is particularly urgent that the new government creates the conditions necessary for the tribunals to push ahead their investigations and clear the backlog of hundreds of pending cases, some of which were originally presented back in the 1980s. The government will have to guarantee access to the archives as well as the provision of relevant resources (legal, forensic, police, and psychological support for the victims) needed to support the justice process.

Over the next five years, the Vazquez administration has a historic opportunity to finally deliver truth, justice and reparations to the victims of human rights atrocities and their families, as well as to the rest of society. Fulfilling the rights to truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence is a responsibility of the three branches of the Uruguayan state. All of them must not miss this opportunity for justice before it is too late.

Dr Francesca Lessa is a postdoctoral researcher at the Latin American Centre at the University of Oxford, specialising on issues of justice and human rights in Argentina and Uruguay.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.


Impunity

The government expressed its intention to search for those who disappeared during the civil-military regime (1973-1985). In February, the Public Prosecutor ’ s Office started criminal proceedings against four retired military personnel on charges of torture for acts committed in 1972. On 24 May, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights referred the case of three girls subjected to enforced disappearance in 1974 and two other cases to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

In August, the notes of a 2006 Military Tribunal of Honour were published, showing that the army tortured and executed Uruguayan detainees in Argentina during the 1970s and confirming that evidence had been concealed.


Uruguay timeline

1516 - Spanish navigator Juan Diaz de Solis killed by indigenous people while exploring the Rio de la Plata, his death discouraging further European colonisation for more than 100 years.

1726 - Spanish found Montevideo and take over Uruguay from the Portuguese many of the indigenous people are killed.

1776 - Uruguay becomes part of the Vice-royalty of La Plata, which has its capital at Buenos Aires.

1808 - Uruguay rebels against the Vice-royalty of La Plata following the overthrow of the Spanish monarchy by Napoleon Bonaparte.

1812-20 - Orientales, or Uruguayans from the eastern side of the River Plata, fight against Argentinian and Brazilian invaders.

1828 - Brazil, Argentina renounce claims to territories which become the Eastern Republic of Uruguay.

1830 - Constitution approved.

1838-65 - Civil war between Blancos, or Whites - the future conservative party - and Colorados, or Reds - the future liberals.

1865-70 - Uruguay joins Argentina and Brazil in war against Paraguay, which is defeated.

1903-15 - Reformist Jose Batlle y Ordonez (Colorado Party) gives women the franchise and establishes a welfare state, disestablishes the church and abolishes the death penalty during two successive terms as president.

1933 - Opposition groups excluded from politics following military coup.

1951 - President replaced with nine-member council in accordance with new constitution.

Dictatorship, guerrilla warfare, return to democracy

1962 - Campaign by Tupamaros guerrillas begins and lasts until 1973.

1971 - British ambassador to Uruguay Geoffrey Jackson kidnapped by Tupamaros guerrillas and held for eight months. He is freed shortly after a mass jail break-out by Tupamaros convicts which officials deny was arranged in exchange for Jackson's release.

1972 - Sixteen survivors of a Uruguayan plane which crashes in the Andes stay alive by eating the flesh of passengers who died. The survivors, mainly members of a Uruguayan rugby team, are trapped for 10 weeks.

1973 - Armed forces seize power and promise to encourage foreign investment, but usher in a period of extreme repression during which Uruguay becomes known as "the torture chamber of Latin America" and accumulates the largest number of political prisoners per capita in the world.

1984 - Violent protests against repression and deteriorating economic conditions.

1985 - Army and political leaders agree on return to constitutional government and the release of political prisoners law grants amnesty to members of the armed forces accused of human rights violations during years of dictatorship Julio Maria Sanguinetti becomes president.

1989 - Referendum endorses amnesty for human rights abusers Lacalle Herrera elected president.

1994 - Julio Maria Sanguinetti elected president.

1999 - Jorge Batlle elected president.

2000 - Commission begins investigating the fate of 160 people who disappeared during the years of military dictatorship.

2002 April - Uruguay breaks diplomatic ties with Cuba, after Cuba accuses it of being a US lackey for sponsoring a UN resolution which calls on Havana to implement human rights reforms.

2002 May - Emergency measures, including tax increases, are announced by President Batlle in an effort to prevent Argentina's financial crisis from spilling over the border.

2002 August - Government orders banks to close for almost a week to stop mass withdrawal of savings. General strike held in protest at economic crisis.

2003 April - World Bank approves loans worth more than $250m.

2003 December - Voters in referendum reject plans to open up state oil monopoly to foreign investment.

2004 May - Senate rejects a bill that would have legalised abortion.

2004 November - Left-winger Tabare Vazquez wins presidential elections, marking a dramatic political shift.

2005 March - President Vazquez is sworn in. Within hours he restores ties with Cuba, signs an energy deal with Venezuela and announces a welfare package to tackle poverty.

2005 December - Forensic experts unearth remains of individuals who are thought to be victims of military rule. President Vazquez ordered the excavations soon after taking office.

2006 July - International Court of Justice rejects a bid by Argentina to suspend the construction of two Uruguayan pulp mills. Uruguay rejects charges that the plants will pollute the border region.

2006 November - Former president-turned-dictator Juan Maria Bordaberry and his former foreign minister are arrested in connection with the 1976 killings of four political opponents.

2006 December - Uruguay pays off its billion-dollar debt to the International Monetary Fund.

2007 May - A new parliament of South America's leading trading block Mercosur is inaugurated in the capital Montevideo.

2007 September - Hundreds of Argentineans cross into Uruguay to protest outside a paper pulp mill, which Argentina and environmentalists say pollutes rivers.

2008 June - President Vasquez announces discovery of what could be large natural gas field off Uruguay's Atlantic coast.

Former dictators jailed

2009 October - The Supreme Court rules that a law shielding officials of the last military government from prosecution for human rights abuses is unconstitutional.

Former military ruler Gregorio Alvarez is sentenced to 25 years in prison for murder and human rights violations.

Ruling Broad Front coalition wins parliamentary election.

2009 November - Former leftist rebel-turned-moderate Jose Mujica of the governing Broad Front wins presidential election.

2010 February - Former president Juan Maria Bordaberry is sentenced to 30 years in prison for murder and violation of the constitution in the wake of the 1973 military coup. Because of his age he serves the sentence at home, and dies in 2011.

2010 March - Jose Mujica takes office as president.

2011 October - Congress votes to revoke an amnesty law that protected military officers from prosecution for crimes committed under military rule in 1975-1983.

2012 July - Government begins consultations on decriminalising marijuana.

2012 October - Uruguay becomes the first country in Latin America after Cuba to legalise abortion for all women. The Senate voted narrowly to allow abortions in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.


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Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men or women, including spousal rape and domestic violence. The law allows for sentences of three to 16 years’ imprisonment for a person found guilty of rape, and authorities effectively enforced the law. The law criminalizes domestic violence and allows sentences of six months’ to two years’ imprisonment for a person found guilty of committing an act of domestic violence or making continued threats of violence. Civil courts decided most domestic cases, and judges in these cases often issued restraining orders, which were sometimes difficult to enforce.

The government further implemented the gender-based violence law, which builds on existing legislation on domestic violence. The law includes abuse that is physical, psychological, emotional, sexual, based on prejudice for sexual orientation, economic, related to assets, symbolic, obstetric, labor-related, educational, political, or related to media presence. It also includes street sexual harassment and femicide. The law aims to create an institutional response system and establishes specialized courts. It sets minimum standards of support and assistance to be provided by the government, to include shelters for the victims and immediate family members. The law attempts to avoid revictimization in social and legal procedures and seeks to make the judicial process more agile. According to civil society representatives, the law was not being fully implemented due in part to lack of resources. For example, specialized courts provided by the gender law were not established however, civil society representatives recognized that judges in nonspecialized courts applied criminal definitions included in the new law. NGO representatives underlined the need for more expert training and the need to include gender-based violence in the university curriculum, especially in the health sector.

The criminal procedure code introduced changes to victims’ rights, including guarantees and services during the process, and the creation of a Victims and Witnesses Unit in the Prosecutor General’s Office. Since its establishment, the unit had focused more than 50 percent of its work on victims of gender-based violence. Civil society representatives saw this as a significant improvement for victims, who received support and guidance during criminal proceedings.

A separate femicide law modifies aggravating circumstances for a homicide to include whether the crime “caused the death of a female due to motive of hate or contempt.” The law’s explanatory statement describes femicide as arising from a structural inequality between women and men that uses gender-based violence as a mechanism to oppress women.

The government maintained a Gender-Based Violence Observatory to monitor, collect, register, and analyze data on gender-based violence. During the year the Interior Ministry acquired 700 more electronic anklets, reaching 1,500 anklets in total. The government trained officials on aspects of gender-based violence and sexual assault.

The Ministry of Social Development, some police stations in the interior, the National Institute for Children and Adolescent Affairs (INAU), and NGOs operated shelters where abused women and children could seek temporary refuge. Civil society reported shelters for victims were of good quality, but capacity was insufficient. The ministry also funded the lodging of victims in hotels. The Ministry of Social Development and the Ministry of Housing operated a program that funded two-year leases for approximately 100 victims, pending more permanent housing solutions. According to NGO representatives, immediate and first-response services focused more on providing advice than on offering close and daily support to victims, mainly due to a lack of staffing. Services for victims in the interior of the country were scarcer and more difficult to access, especially for women in isolated rural areas. The Ministry for Social Development and the state-owned telephone company, Antel, maintained a free nationwide hotline operated by trained NGO employees for victims of domestic violence. Victims could also file a report online or at a police station.

The government’s 2016-19 action plan to combat gender-based violence provided for interagency coordination on violence prevention, access to justice, victim protection and attention, and punishment of perpetrators. It also promoted social and cultural awareness and provided training for public servants. The Prosecutor General’s Office has a specialized gender unit that incorporated greater awareness of gender as it relates to matters of justice, promoted respect for women’s rights, combated violence, and enhanced interagency coordination. The Ministry of Interior’s gender unit seeks to ensure a clear policy on gender-based violence in police forces and trains police staff to handle and respond to cases. The omnibus reform bill passed in July established the creation of a National Gender Policies Directorate within the Ministry of Interior. The Prosecutor General’s Office has special prosecutorial teams to investigate and prosecute gender-based violence cases, separate from those working on domestic violence cases. These units focus on the various forms of violence defined in the new law as well as human trafficking cases.

There is also a National Gender Council headed by the Women’s Institute (Inmujeres) of the Ministry of Social Development and with representatives of 26 government and nongovernmental bodies, including the 12 ministries, judicial branch, health administration, INDDHH, academia, civil society, and other actors. The aim of the council is to contribute to the design, assessment, and implementation of policies with a gendered perspective. The council met in an extraordinary session after the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis to address effects of the pandemic on domestic violence victims. In June it had its first ordinary session, to establish the lines of effort for the 2020-25 period, which would focus on gender-based violence, financial independence of women, decentralization of gender policies, and participation of women in decision-making positions.

With the coronavirus outbreak in March and the resulting isolation measures implemented by the government, civil society began a public messaging campaign warning about the increased risk of gender-based violence and domestic violence victims resulting from confinement. Authorities of the Women’s Institute under the Ministry of Social Development initially detected a drop in reports during the first two weeks of isolation, with a sharp increase after the third week. Measures adopted by the government included strengthening support hotlines, conducting awareness-raising campaigns about reporting channels available, and encouraging the population to be alert to possible abuse cases in their communities. The Ministry of Health designed a protocol to help health staff visiting homes and working in emergency rooms to detect and report possible cases of gender-based violence. The Ministry of Interior and its Gender Policies Division worked to ensure 911 response was available for gender-based violence cases and announced reporting channels for abuses. In addition the Ministry of Social Development increased slots in shelters for mothers with children, and the judicial branch automatically extended precautionary measures that were close to expiration, such as restraining orders that use electronic monitoring anklets.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace and punishes it by fines or dismissal. The law establishes guidelines for the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace, as well as in student-professor relations, and provides damages for victims. The Ministry of Labor received reports of sexual harassment, its inspectors investigated claims of sexual harassment, and the ministry issued fines as necessary.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on part of the government authorities.

Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women as for men. Women, however, faced discrimination in employment, pay, credit, education, housing, and business ownership. According to the United Nations, women’s employment was concentrated in a relatively small number of specific occupations and sectors, including services, sales, unskilled labor, domestic work, social services, health services, and education. There are restrictions on women working in factories. According to a study published by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and UN Women in August, women experienced a 42 percent decrease in their monthly salary 10 years after having their first child, compared with women in similar circumstances who did not have any children.

During the year the Ministry of Labor’s Tripartite Equal Employment Opportunities Commission promoted the inclusion of gender equality clauses in the negotiations conducted by the wage boards, emphasizing equal pay for equal work of value, equal access to quality jobs and training, elimination of discrimination in selection and promotion processes, and guarantees and protections for maternity and responsibility sharing.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country’s territory or from one’s parents. The government immediately registered all births.

Child Abuse: There are laws against child abuse, and penalties vary according to the type of abuse. Penalties for sexual abuse of minors vary between two and 16 years in prison, depending on the gravity of the case. Penalties for the crime of assault range from three months to eight years in prison, and the penalty for domestic violence is from six months to two years in prison. INAU provided a free, nationwide hotline. INAU’s System for the Protection of Children and Adolescents against Violence (SIPIAV), together with NGOs, implemented awareness campaigns, and SIPIAV coordinated interagency efforts on the protection of children’s rights. In March, SIPIAV disseminated to relevant stakeholders a protocol with guidelines for prevention, detection, of violence against children up to age three, and their protection.

The Ministry of Education coordinated efforts to provide child victims of domestic violence with tools to report abuses using their “One Laptop per Child” program computers.

Child, Early , and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is age 16, but the law requires parental consent through age 18. The law defines forced marriage as a form of exploitation.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children and child pornography. Authorities made efforts to enforce the law.

The human trafficking law defines the use, recruitment, or offering of children and adolescents for sexual exploitation as a form of trafficking. The law establishes the minimum age for consensual sex as 12. When a sexual union takes place between an adult (older than age 18) and a minor younger than age 15, violence is presumed and the statutory rape law, which carries a penalty of two to 12 years in prison, may be applied. Penalties for sex trafficking range from four to 16 years in prison penalties were increased by one-third to one-half if the trafficking offense involved a child victim. The penalty for child pornography ranges from one to six years in prison, and the law was effectively enforced. The National Committee for the Eradication of the Commercial and Noncommercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents continued to implement its national action plan for 2016-21.

The alleged suicide of an 18-year-old girl in 2019 prompted an investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office. The inspection of her cell phone records, which went back to before she turned 18, resulted in the charging of 32 persons for the crime of compensation or offer of compensation in exchange for sexual favors from minors, and to the identification of 18 victims as of September. Most of the accused were businessmen or professionals older than age 50. As of September the first one of the accused was convicted through plea bargaining to three months of house arrest, three months of house arrest at night, 18 months of probation, loss of custody rights to his children, and the payment of a reparation to the victim. This man had only online contact with the victim via the WhatsApp messaging application, not physical contact. The remaining 31 defendants had not yet been tried. As a result of this case, the Prosecutor General’s Office established a special hotline to receive reports of sexual exploitation of minors from victims who had any information.

Institutionalized Children: The NPM reported violations of rights in centers for children and adolescents with disabilities, including their confinement, isolation from their surroundings and communities, and prevention of their inclusion and rehabilitation.

The NPM also reported violation of rights in the temporary processing centers where children or adolescents separated from their families were initially sent for first response, diagnosis, and evaluation. Violations included prolonged stays, overcrowding, stressful confinement conditions, lack of required support staff, and mistreatment.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html .

Anti-Semitism

The Central Jewish Committee reported that the Jewish community had an estimated population of 12,000 to 18,000.

Jewish leaders reported acts of anti-Semitism, including verbal harassment and aggressive behavior toward Jewish individuals.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/ .

Persons with Disabilities

The law protects the rights and prohibits abuse of persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, including their access to education, employment, health services, information, communications, buildings, transportation, the judicial system, and other state services. According to the INDDHH, persons with disabilities continued to experience human rights abuses. Persons with disabilities living in both private and government-run facilities were unprotected and vulnerable due to lack of effective mechanisms for supervision. According to an August report on social inclusion published by the World Bank, persons with disabilities faced numerous obstacles, especially in the labor market, education, and public spaces. While the national rate of persons who completed only primary education or less was 40 percent, among persons with disabilities it reached 57 percent, and among persons with severe disabilities it was 72.5 percent. According to the study, only 450 of 1,500 buses in Montevideo were accessible to persons with disabilities, and they operated with limited frequency and in limited areas of the city, significantly restricting mobility of persons with disabilities. The report also emphasized the lack of adequate data to analyze this problem and therefore adequately address the needs of the disability community.

The government did not always effectively enforce provisions for persons with disabilities. Civil society representatives stated there was a general lack of services for persons with disabilities in the country’s interior. The Ministry of Social Development administered several programs that provided assistive devices, temporary housing support, caregiving services, legal assistance, access to transportation, education, vocational training, and employment services.

The law grants children with disabilities the right to attend school (primary, secondary, and higher education). NGOs reported some public schools built after enactment of the law protecting persons with disabilities did not comply with accessibility requirements and usually did not have resources to meet the specific needs of students with disabilities. An international organization reported there were still “special schools” for children with disabilities, resulting in a situation of segregation for these children. An international organization also reported there were very few adolescents with disabilities in secondary education. Ramps built at public elementary and high schools facilitated access, but some government buildings, commercial sites, movie theaters, and other cultural venues as well as many public sidewalks lacked access ramps. NGO representatives reported hospitals and medical services were not always accessible to patients with disabilities. Medical staff often lacked training to deliver primary care and attention to these patients. Plan Ceibal continued to offer adapted laptops to children with disabilities. Open television channels are required by law to have simultaneous sign-language interpretation or subtitles on informational and some other programs, which were included.

Members of National/Racial/Ethnic Minority Groups

The constitution and the law prohibit discrimination based on race or ethnicity, and government made efforts to enforce the law. Despite this, the country’s Afro-Uruguayan minority continued to face societal discrimination, high levels of poverty, and lower levels of education. According to a World Bank report published in August, Afro-Uruguayans had almost twice the likelihood of residing in informal settlements with the worst social-economic indicators, compared with the general population. The report also stated that although Afro-Uruguayans had access to health care, they were more dependent on the public health provider ASSE than the rest of the population. While 30.5 percent of the population used public health services, the number for Afro-Uruguayans amounted to almost 48 percent. While 63 percent of the population sought prepaid health care from collective medical care institutions, approximately 46 percent of Afro-descendants used these services. Afro-descendants had lower levels of education in general, but the gap was considerably wider for secondary and higher education. The INDDHH and Honorary Commission against Racism, Xenophobia, and All Forms of Discrimination continued to receive complaints of racism. NGOs reported “structural racism” in society and noted the percentage of Afro-Uruguayans working as unskilled laborers was much higher than for other groups.

The National Police Academy, National School for Peacekeeping Operations of Uruguay, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ School of Diplomacy included discrimination awareness training as part of their curricula. The Ministry of Interior organized workshops to review police protocols and procedures involving ethnicity issues for police around the country. The Ministry of Social Development and the interagency antidiscrimination committee held awareness-raising workshops for their staff.

Afro-Uruguayans were underrepresented in government. Two Afro-Uruguayan representatives served in the 130-seat parliament after the October 2019 elections, including the first Afro-Uruguayan to be elected to the Senate. The law grants 8 percent of state jobs to Afro-Uruguayan minority candidates who comply with constitutional and legal requirements, although the required percentage had not been reached. The National Employment Agency is required to include Afro-Uruguayans in its training courses. The law requires all scholarship and student support programs to include a quota for Afro-Uruguayans, and it grants financial benefits to companies that hire them. Nonetheless, the United Nations reported it was difficult to ensure the ethnoracial perspective was included in all scholarship programs to meet the quotas.

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Leaders of civil society organizations reported that despite the legal advancement of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) issues, societal discrimination remained high. NGOs also reported that although the law establishes the right of transgender persons to sex reassignment surgery, this was available only for transgender women (male to female). NGOs reported the commission in charge of name changes was overwhelmed with the workload increase resulting from the new law.

Authorities generally protected the rights of LGBTI persons. According to Amnesty International, however, the country did not have any comprehensive, antidiscrimination policy that protected LGBTI citizens from violence in schools and public spaces or provided for their access to health services. The Latin America and Caribbean Transgender Persons Network (REDLACTRANS) presented a study showing that human rights violations against transgender women included discrimination, violence and aggression, theft, violation of the right to access justice, harassment, and homicide, among others. Discrimination toward transgender women was typically worse in the interior of the country, which tended to be more conservative and had smaller populations.

REDLACTRANS reported most transgender persons did not finish high school and that most transgender women worked in the informal sector, where their social benefits were not always guaranteed. They tended to be more vulnerable to dangerous and uncomfortable situations in sexual work and were less likely to report threats or attacks. In 2016 the government reported that 30 percent of transgender persons were unemployed, only 25 percent worked in the formal sector, 70 percent were sex workers, and the majority had low levels of education. Civil society reported it was less frequent for transgender men to be expelled from their home but that there was a high rate of depression and suicide attempts among this population. Observers also noted that, because they did not complete their education, transgender men usually had unskilled and low-paying jobs.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

There were isolated reports of societal discrimination against persons with HIV or AIDS.


Uruguay split over ending of amnesty for rights violations under dictatorship

Twenty-five years after democracy was restored in Uruguay the wounds are still not healed. The latest controversy centres on a bill to annul the amnesty that prevents prosecution of members of the military and police for alleged human rights violations under the dictatorship of 1973-85.

It has opened a rift in the centre-left government of President José Mujica, a former leader of the 1970s Tupamaros urban guerrillas, who was himself tortured and imprisoned for 14 years. About 200 people disappeared under the dictatorship.

The senate passed the bill in April and it will soon return to the lower house. What should have been a formality – parliament having voted to annul the amnesty law last October – has prompted lively debate. The opposition and even members of the Broad Front (FA), the ruling coalition, are claiming the vote would be unconstitutional, because it would overrule voters who approved the amnesty in two referendums in 1989 and 2009. A majority of public opinion is also against ending the amnesty.

To emphasise his disagreement, one of the former leaders of the Tupamaros, Eleuterio Fernández Huidobro, has given up his senate seat. The chief of staff, General Jorge Rosales, has said "there is nervousness" among the military. A group of reserve officers have condemned "political persecution". Cancelling the amnesty "may destabilise the country", according to their spokesman, Colonel José Araujo.

However the political commentator Adolfo Garcé thinks the resentment among the military "will not endanger democracy in Uruguay". Following a meeting with the heads of the armed forces, Mujica said he would not veto the bill if the congress, where the FA has a majority, voted to repeal the amnesty. If the amnesty is cancelled, it will open the way for about 10 trials.

The supreme court has ruled on three occasions that the amnesty was unconstitutional. The 1986 law obliges prosecutors to obtain the executive's approval each time they want to open an inquiry. Since the centre-left came to power in 2005, the courts have sentenced several people for human rights violations, including the former dictators Gregorio Álvarez and Juan María Bordaberry.

In March, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights said Uruguay must lift restrictions on the prosecution of crimes committed under the dictatorship in relation to the disappearance of the stepdaughter of the Argentinian poet Juan Gelman. The inquiry, closed in 2004, was therefore reopened.


Watch the video: Η Ιστορία των Ανθρωπίνων Δικαιωμάτων (December 2021).