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A/HRC/54/22/add.1: Visit to Uruguay - Report of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances


02 July 2023

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At the invitation of the Government of Uruguay, the Working Group visited the country from 7 to 14 July 2022. The purpose of the visit was to obtain first-hand information on the human rights situation in the country, in the area of enforced disappearance, with a view to identifying the progress made in applying international standards in this area and ensuring the enjoyment of the rights to truth, justice, reparation and memory, as well as the main challenges currently facing the country, including with regard to prevention. The Working Group mainly focused on the enforced disappearances that took place between 1968 and 1985 and the corresponding obligations of the State. It also received information on disappearances occurring at the present time, particularly those involving persons belonging to especially vulnerable groups (children, adolescents and women).

In general terms, following the restoration of democracy in 1985, Uruguay has made significant progress in protecting human rights, having ratified to date all the international human rights treaties of the United Nations, progressively bringing its national laws into compliance with international human rights standards and thereby becoming a model country at the international level. It must also be acknowledged that some progress has been made in promoting justice and combating impunity for crimes committed during the period of illegitimate action of the State and the dictatorship, i.e., between 1968 and 1985. For example, the Expiry of Punitive Powers of the State Act (No. 15848) has been repealed, the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Humanity has been established, enforced disappearance was defined as an offence in 2006 and the responsibility of the State for its criminal and illegitimate action during this period has been officially recognized. 

The Working Group notes that the progress achieved is undoubtedly due to the tenacious efforts made over five decades by victims and the relatives of disappeared persons, along with their commitment and courage in searching for their loved ones, identifying and prosecuting the persons responsible, preserving memory and ensuring guarantees of non-repetition.

However, the Working Group has noted that the search and justice processes relating to enforced disappearance have faced serious institutional obstacles that have resulted in long delays. In this connection, the relatives with whom the Working Group met expressed their anguish about the failure to obtain any substantial results after such a long time. The Working Group is deeply concerned to note that, in recent years, many people have died without ever learning the truth about the fate of their loved ones or obtaining justice. 

The Working Group considers that the State should fully assume the sense of urgency that relatives have felt at every moment of the last 50 years and that the State’s highest authorities should send a clear and unequivocal message to the whole of Uruguayan society that this task should be taken on jointly with a sense of seriousness, proactivity and urgency.

Lastly, the Working Group formulates a series of recommendations relating to the prevention, investigation, punishment and reparation of the harm suffered by the victims of enforced disappearance and the protection of groups in situations of particular vulnerability. 

Issued By:

Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances

Delivered To:

Human Rights Council at its fifty-fourth session