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Truth Commission: Commission for Peace
Duration: 2000 – 2002
Charter: Resolución de la Presidencia de la República No. 858/200
Commissioners: 6
Report: Public report

 

Truth Commission: Commission for Peace (Comisión Para la Paz)

Dates of Operation: August 2000 – August 2002 (2 years)

Background: In 1973, the Uruguayan military superseded the elected Congress and its leaders were given sweeping authority to eliminate leftist opponents. Human rights abuses and repression ensued. The military leadership took part in Plan Condór, an orchestrated network among the military leaders of the Latin America's southern cone to suppress the leftist movement. Little was know about the extent of the violations in Uruguay during this period because of total military control. Most activists were either completely suppressed or fled the country. By 1984, political pressure for elections prevailed, and Julio Maria Sanguinetti was elected president in 1985.

In April 1985, two commissions of inquiry were set up to examine the abuses that occurred during the military regimes from 1973 to 1985 at the initiative of two political parties in the legislature. The Commission for the Investigation of the Situation of the Disappeared and Related Events transmitted its report to the ordinary courts in November 1985, and a month earlier, the Investigating Commission on the Kidnapping and Assassination of National Representatives Zelmar Michelini and Hector Gutierrez Ruiz released its findings. None of the commission reports received an official response. As a result of the short lived nature of the former commissions, the Commission for Peace was established by President Jorge Batelle in 2000 to further investigate the fate of the disappeared during the military regime from 1973 to 1985.

Charter:
Resolución de la Presidencia de la República No. 858/200, August 9, 2000 (in Diario Oficial No. 25.583, August 17, 2000).

Mandate: The Commission for Peace was to investigate the fate of the disappeared in Uruguay between 1973 and 1985 in accordance with the 1986 Amnesty Law, which required the government to investigate the fates of the estimated 200 disappearances.

Commissioners and Structure: The commission was comprised of six members, all men, and was chaired by Archbishop Nicolas Cotungo.

Report: The final report, Informe Final de la Comisión para la Paz (PDF-10488KB) was published on April 10, 2003 in Spanish.

Findings:

Conclusions

  • The commission’s report, handed over to the Supreme Court, included information on the fates of 38 disappeared, 32 of them Uruguayan and 6 Argentinean.
  • The commission concluded that the state abandoned the principles of the rule of law and basic human rights. The vast majority of abuses involved state agents.
  • In most cases, the disappeared individuals were detained and torture in unofficial facilities. Extra-judicial executions were common while in some cases, the victims died as a consequence of torture and mistreatment.
  • The vast majority of victims did not participate in subversive organizations nor did they engage in militant groups. The date of their deaths indicates that a majority of victims was killed after the sedition was already broken.
  • The commission found that many Uruguayan citizens were secretly detained, tortured and executed in Argentina. Others were held in Chile, Paraguay, Brazil, Columbia, and Bolivia.

Recommendations

  • The commission recommended the creation of a secretariat for follow-up (Secretaría de Seguimiento) to promote legal norms and to recognize the legal gap regarding disappeared citizens (“death certificates”). This secretariat was also charged to determine the criteria for monetary and symbolic reparations.
  • The President was asked to officially acknowledge the disappearances, and in response he accepted the final report and widely disseminated it.
  • The education system should analyze and remember the past and legal reform implemented to include international crimes in domestic legislation.

Subsequent Developments:

Reforms

  • The government adopted the conclusions of the commission through decree 448/2003 April 16, 2003.
  • The President established an agency to follow up, respond to, and continue the work of the Peace Commission.
  • The army did not acknowledge its role in the disappearances or the repression. Rather, 14 Generals of the army and the Commander-in-Chief publicly stated that the report was biased.

Prosecutions

  • In 2006, Former President Juan Maria Bordaberry was arrested in connection with the deaths of political opponents that occurred in 1976. Uruguayan courts approved the trial of the former president and his foreign minister.

Reparations

  • The government initiated a reparations program, however, many say the government did this only to appease those who wanted formal prosecutions.

Special Notes: The commission’s power was limited to only allowing statements from those who voluntarily agreed to make a submission. It did not have power to undertake further investigations, and it only had one support staff member.

Sources:

Allier, Eugenia. "Exploration - the Peace Commission: A Consensus on the Recent Past in Uruguay?" Revista Europea De Estudios Latinoamericanos y Del Caribe = European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies. no. 81 (2006): 87. Available at http://www.cedla.uva.nl/50_publications/pdf/revista/81RevistaEuropea/81Allier-ISSN-0924-0608.pdf (accessed February 9, 2011).

Brito, Alexandra Barahona de. Human Rights and Democratization in Latin America: Uruguay and Chile. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Center for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation. "Justice in Perspective - Truth and Justice Commission, South America - Uruguay." Available at http://www.justiceinperspective.org.za/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=95&Itemid=111 (accessed June 17, 2008).

El Senado y la Cámara de Representantes de la República Oriental del Uruguay, reunidos en Asamblea General. Funcionarios Militares y Policiales Se Reconoce Que Ha Caducado El Ejercicio De La Pretensión Punitiva Del Estado Respecto De Los Delitos Cometidos Hasta El 1° De Marzo De 1985. Vol. Ley Nº 15.8481986. Available at http://www.presidencia.gub.uy/_web/ddhh/Ley15848.htm (accessed June 12, 2009).

Hayner, Priscilla B. Unspeakable Truths: Facing the Challenge of Truth Commissions. New York: Routledge, 2002.

Peterson, Trudy Huskamp. Final Acts: A Guide to Preserving the Records of Truth Commissions. Washington, D.C.; Baltimore: Woodrow Wilson Center Press; Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005. Available at http://www.wilsoncenter.org/book/final-acts-guide-to-preserving-the-records-truth-commissions (accessed October 26, 2008).

"Proyecto Desaparecidos: Uruguay."  Available at http://www.desaparecidos.org/uru/ (accessed June 17, 2008).

TRIAL (Track Impunity Always). "Uruguayan Peace Commission." Available at http://www.trial-ch.org/en/truth-commissions/uruguay.html (accessed June 17, 2008).

"Uruguay Nears Finalisation of "Peace Commission"." BBC News, June 22, 2000. Available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/801508.stm (accessed June 17, 2008).

 

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