Covering events from January-December 2001

Eastern Republic of Uruguay
Head of state and government: Jorge Batlle
Capital: Montevideo
Population: 3.4 million
Official language: Spanish
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
2001 treaty ratifications/signatures: Optional Protocol to the UN Women's Convention

The Peace Commission established the fate of 20 Uruguayans who "disappeared" in Uruguay and Argentina between 1973 and 1985. Efforts to bring to justice those responsible were thwarted by the authorities.

Investigations into 'disappearances'

In August the Peace Commission, established in August 2000 to clarify the fate of Uruguayans who "disappeared" between 1973 and 1985, reported that it had shed light on the cases of 15 Uruguayans out of 34 who had been detained and had "disappeared" in Uruguay during this period. It established that they died in custody as a result of torture but that their bodies had not been found.

The Commission also uncovered information about five out of 100 Uruguayans who were detained and "disappeared" in neighbouring Argentina, and stated that legal steps were being taken to exhume and repatriate the remains to Uruguay. There were reports that the Commission would extend its working period until it had been able to clarify more cases.

However, the 1986 Expiry Law prevented perpetrators from being brought to justice. It granted exemption from punishment to police and military personnel for human rights violations committed for political motives or in fulfilment of orders before 1 March 1985. During a visit to Uruguay in October the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed her concern about this law and the need for a just and long-lasting reconciliation to close wounds unhealed for three decades.

Efforts to combat impunity

In June a judge in Argentina indicted three Uruguayan former armed forces officers – José Nino Gavazzo, Jorge Silveira and Manuel Cordero – and a police officer, Hugo Campos Hermida, for their alleged involvement in the "disappearance" of more than 20 Uruguayan nationals in Argentina. The judge requested that they be preventively detained in Uruguay pending a request by Argentina to the Uruguayan authorities for their extradition.

In July the same judge requested the preventive detention in Uruguay, pending a request for extradition from Argentina, of former army commander Julio Vadora. He was allegedly involved in a conspiracy by military governments in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay to return exiles to the countries they had fled and where many were subsequently tortured, had "disappeared" and were murdered.

The Uruguayan authorities refused to detain any of the officers. In September, the army awarded an honorary decoration to Jorge Silveira. Also in September, relatives of 12 Uruguayans who "disappeared" in Argentina in 1976, filed a complaint against 10 members of the Uruguayan security forces, including Jorge Silveira, for the crimes of deprivation of liberty, abduction of minors and conspiracy to commit an offence.

A country reports/visits


  • Uruguay: The case of Simón Riquelo – a 25-year struggle for truth and justice (AI Index: AMR 52/001/2001)

This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.