Uruguay's Evolving Experience of Amnesty and Civil Society's Response
78 Pages Posted: 16 Apr 2009 Last revised: 3 Jan 2014
Date Written: March 16, 2009
In charting the history of amnesties in Uruguay, this paper will begin in Part 2 by providing a brief overview of the circumstances that gave rise to military rule and the consequences of the dictatorship on society. Then in Part 3 it will explore the moves towards a negotiated transition and the growing civil society demands for amnesty for political prisoners. Part 4 will analyse the terms of the Naval Club Pact and the role that amnesty played in the negotiations. This pact led to democratic elections and the creation of parliamentary investigative commissions which will be discussed in Part 5. Part 6 will subsequently explore the scope and impact of the National Pacification Law, which benefited political prisoners and exiles. The elite driven Naval Club Pact and National Pacification process were followed by 'bottom-up' pressure for truth and justice, which will be considered in Part 7. This pressure contributed to the issue of amnesty for military and police officers resurfacing in 1986 as outlined in Part 8 and the resulting Ley de Caducidad will be explored in Part 9. The referendum challenge of civil society to the amnesty will be discussed in Part 10 and the impact of the referendum and the Ley de Caducidad will analyzed in Part 11. Although the amnesty provided broad impunity for state officials, attempts to provide truth, justice and reparations continued at the international level, as explored in Part 12, and then increasingly at the domestic level from the late 1990s, which will be discussed in Part 13. Part 14 will look at the current efforts to reinterpret the amnesty law and Part 15 will discuss the current campaign to trigger a second referendum to annul the amnesty.
This paper will argue that Uruguay provides an important case study that highlights how civil society can engage with the amnesty issue, and how the wider population respond. Furthermore, the experience of the amnesty laws in Uruguay illustrates how the scope of amnesty laws can change over time through new interpretations in response to changing political contexts and legal developments.
Keywords: amnesty, truth commissions, Uruguay, legitimacy, transitional justice
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