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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Les crimes de la dictature impunis

by Cathy Ceïbé

Unpunished Crimes of a Dictatorship

Translated Wednesday 28 October 2009, by Henry Crapo and reviewed by Isabelle Métral

The referendum asking for the annulment of the law of amnesty did not obtain the required majority. Can the Frente Amplio, having a majority in both houses, correct this affront?

For the families of the victims of the dictatorship, this is a big disappointment. In parallel with the general election there were two popular consultations bearing, one, on voting by mail by Uruguayans living in other countries (about 500,000 in number), the other, more sensitive, on the annulment of the law of Caducidad [1]. Commonly called the law of impunity, this legislation provides a legally established amnesty for the authors of crimes committed during the black years of dictatorship (1973-1985). The "yes" gathered only 41% of the votes, according to partial results, or under the 50% required for annulment.

Nearly half a century after the end of the dictatorship, the military police guilty of torture or of forced disappearances, have still not been judged, according to a law passed at the end of the dictatorship (1986) and confirmed three times since by referendum in a still fragile country.

The result of the referendum "is a profound historical error, which we repeat a second time," the Frente deputy Diego Canepa told the BBC.

The struggle for truth and justice is neither finished, nor discredited

Up until now, the right-wing Parti Colorado, which dominated the political scene, systematically took refuge behind this law of denial, arguing that these crimes were things of the past. The victory of the Frente Amplio in 2005 opened a window of hope, in that the president Tabaré Vasquez made the question of dictatorship one of the themes of his campaign. Despite having a majority in the National Assembly and Senate, he then went into reverse gear, refusing to legislate.

"The struggle for truth and justice is neither finished, nor discredited," declared, to the Prensa Latina, Luis Puig, spokesman for the Coordination for the annulment of the law of Caducidad. A sign of encouragement: one week ago, the supreme court declared this legislation unconstitutional in the case of the assassination of the militant communist Nibia Sabalsagaray, finding that it violates the separation of powers, and renders fragile the international treaties concerning human rights. Will this make jurisprudence? Whatever happens, the Uruguayan state has still a debt to pay to the victims of the dictatorship, and to their families, seeking truth and justice.

[1law of expiration

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