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LATIN AMERICA | 19-03-2021 13:46

Victims of Uruguay's dictatorship seek justice

A group of Uruguayan women are seeking justice for the sexual abuse they suffered throughout the country's 1973 dictatorship. With few developments in the case, they have decided to approach the regional watchdog.

Former political prisoners seeking justice for sexual abuse they suffered during Uruguay's 1973-1985 military dictatorship, presented their case Thursday to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

The 28 women filed a criminal complaint in Uruguay 10 years ago, but with few developments in the case, they have decided to approach the regional watchdog.

Their complaint targets more than 100 regime officials, doctors, psychologists and security forces members, none of whom have been convicted of any crimes.

"Like elsewhere, in Uruguay, sexual violence was a weapon of war used by the state to humiliate and punish political prisoners," Maria Noel Leoni of the Center for Justice and International Law (Cejil) told the online hearing of the IACHR.

Despite the government scrapping an amnesty for dictatorship-era crimes in 2011, justice has been slow to come, she added.

"According to civil society, more than 70 percent of the approximately 200 open cases are in the initial stages of investigation, including this case," said Leoni.

"There have been convictions in only 14 trials against 30 people. And there are unprocessed complaints against more than 60 accused," she told the hearing.

For the government, human rights director Marina Sande said the IACHR process was critical for justice to be achieved.

"Uruguay as a country recognises, condemns and repudiates the atrocious and abhorrent crimes and abuses committed during the dictatorial period," she said, while conceding there have been "shortcomings" in the judicial process.

Considered one of South America's most progressive countries, Uruguay remains conflicted about its military past.

Torture, killings, enforced disappearances and other human rights violations were committed during the nearly 12-year dictatorship imposed after a US-backed coup d'etat in 1973.

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