1. In 1978 the Commission prepared a Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Uruguay, which it submitted to the eighth regular session of the General Assembly of the OAS. In its report, the Commission noted that the Uruguayan regime violated rights recognized by the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. In particular, the Commission reached the conclusion that serious violations of the following human rights had been committed in Uruguay: the right to life, to liberty, to personal security and integrity; the right to freedom of opinion, expression and dissemination of thought, the right to justice, the right to due process, the right of assembly and association, and the right to vote and participate in the government.
The General Assembly, in Resolution AG/RES. 369 (VIII-O/78), thanked the Commission for its Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Uruguay, and requested it to continue to study the situation there and to report to the General Assembly at its next session.
2. In compliance with this and subsequent mandates from the General Assembly, and on the basis of the norms that govern the Commission, it continued to consider the situation of human rights in Uruguay and to report to subsequent sessions of the General Assembly of the Organization. In its 1981-1982 report, the Commission noted, as concerns Uruguay, that there existed limitations on the right to life, to physical integrity and to due process, the right of assembly and association, the right to freedom of opinion and expression, political rights, and the right to movement and residence, and it set forth a number of recommendations concerning observance of those rights.
At that time, the Commission paid special attention to the situation of detentions without due process and to political rights. In that Annual Report, the Commission stated that persons were still being detained on the basis of extraordinary powers, and that the judiciary lacked the necessary authority to intervene or to provide the necessary guarantees to prevent arbitrary detentions. The Commission also added that many persons detained for political reasons alleged that they were kept incommunicado for long periods, and that they were subject to various forms of harassment, mistreatment, psychological punishment, lack of adequate medical care, and in some cases, even torture.
With respect to political rights, in that Report, submitted to the twelfth session of the General Assembly held in 1982, the Commission stated that it had been informed of a new political timetable by the Uruguayan Government, according to which internal political party elections would be held in November of that year; general elections would be held in November of 1984; and in March of 1985 the new president of the Republic would take office. At that time, the Commission expressed its trust that this timetable would be followed, which would return Uruguay to democratic and constitutional government.
It should be noted in this connection that since 1976 the Commission has been requesting the consent of the Government of Uruguay to carry out an in loco visit in that country. The General Assembly of the Organization itself, in addition, has recommended to the Government of Uruguay that it consider the possibility of inviting the Commission to the country. This request for consent was repeated by the Commission when it met at its sixty-second session on May 15 of 1984, although the Government of Uruguay has not yet replied to that request.
3. An agreement resulting from the dialogue between the Armed Forces and the political parties, which will make possible this return to democratic government, was considered by the military to be the condition for the convocation of national elections. After a brief dialogue of two months in 1983, talks ceased on July 5, 1983. On August 2, 1983, political activities were formally suspended and strict censorship was imposed on the press, prohibiting any reference to political activity, strikes or labor disputes. The political dialogue was suspended until May 1, 1984, when the Armed Forces submitted a series of new proposals for renewing the dialogue with the representatives of the political parties.
The multiparty coalition of political parties (which included the Blanco, Colorado, Unión Cívica and Frente Amplio parties) declared on May 25, 1984 its confidence in a democratic outcome for the country to be achieved by means of negotiations with the Armed Forces.
4. The circumstance that seriously endangered the possibility for a reestablishment of democracy in Uruguay was the Government’s attitude to the return of Wilson Ferreira, the Blanco Party’s presidential candidate. Despite the repeated threats by the military government to detain Mr. Ferreira should he return to Uruguay, Wilson Ferreira Aldunate returned on the Argentine ship Ciudad de Mar del Plata ending 11 years of exile.
Two weeks prior to the arrival of Wilson Ferreira, the Uruguayan military unleashed a wave of arrests and imprisoned for forty-eight hours Mr. Guillermo García Costa, the President of the Blanco Party Convention, and the editor of the party newspaper Mr. Alberto Zumarán. Likewise, any mention of Wilson Ferreira in the press was prohibited, as were popular demonstrations in support of his return.
Wilson Ferreira and his son Juan Raúl were detained when their ship entered Uruguayan waters. A military court accused Wilson Ferreira of collaborating with the Tupamaro guerrillas, and of disparaging the military government abroad. His son, Juan Raúl, was also accused of undermining the morale of the Armed Forces. Both denied the charges. On June 19, the Commission sent the Government of Uruguay the following communication, which has so far received no reply:
IACHR HAS RECEIVED THE FOLLOWING DENUNCIATION: WE DENOUNCE THE ILLEGAL AND GROUNDLESS DETENTION OF THE LEADER OF THE URUGUAYAN BLANCO PARTY, WILSON FERREIRA ALDUNATE, AND OF HIS SON, JUAN RAÚL, DETAINED SINCE SATURDAY JUNE 16 IN URUGUAY. DUE TO HIS IRREGULAR DETENTION IN MILITARY QUARTERS AND TO CHARGES THAT ARE EXCESSIVELY VAGUE AND TOO LACKING IN PRECISION TO AMOUNT TO AN OFFENSE UNDER INTERNATIONALLY-RECOGNIZED NORMS, AND TO THE LACK OF DUE PROCESS GUARANTEES, WE CONSIDER THAT THE IACHR SHOULD INTERVENE WITH THE URUGUAYAN AUTHORITIES TO DEMAND THEIR IMMEDIATE RELEASE AND THE RESTORATION OF ALL THE RIGHTS TO WHICH THEY ARE ENTITLED AS CITIZENS.
Although Wilson Ferreira continues in detention, Juan Raúl was released on August 21, 1984.
The Blanco Party withdrew from the dialogue with the Armed Forces, indicating that it could not participate as long as its political leader remained in detention. The other parties argued for the need to continue negotiations, pointing out that to end the negotiations would result in Wilson Ferreira remaining in prison, and the elections would not be held. The leaders of the Colorado and Frente Amplio parties pointed out that to safeguard the process, they had renounced their own presidential ambitions. This was the case of Jorge Batlle Ibáñez of the Colorado Party, who withdrew his candidacy to allow his party to nominate Julio Sanguinetti, and of Líber Seregni, of the Frente Amplio.
5. On June 26, 1984, the Multiparty Coalition, without the Blanco Party, agreed to renew the dialogue, and on July 6 of 1984 the negotiations were reinitiated. One day earlier, the Armed Forces issued Institutional Act Nº 16, which sets the basis for reviewing the mechanisms for proscriptions. Subsequently, some 6,000 persons who had been proscribed were authorized to register in voter lists and to public offices.
The rehabilitation of the Frente Amplio and the activities of its President, Líber Seregni, as well as its participation in the political dialogue, through its representatives, Messrs. Cardoso and Young, facilitated the negotiations of the Armed Forces with the political parties, which concluded on July 31, 1984 in an agreement, adopted by consensus, in which some of the prior points of friction were settled, such as the creation of an advisory body for national security issues, which in the future could be convoked only by the President, and with the agreement that military courts would have jurisdiction during emergency situations only, described as a “state of insurrection”.
Subsequently, it was agreed that the elections would be held on November 25, and that the new civilian government would take office on March 1, 1985. The Commander of the Army, Lt. Gen. Hugo Medina, commented on the agreement stating that the Armed Forces, “leave with honor, as we hoped”.
The basis for the agreement is the Constitution of 1967, suspended since the coup d’etat of 1973. on August 15, 1984, the Armed Forces ratified the agreement by signing Institutional Act Nº 19 which officially convokes the general elections.
On August 16, 1984, Wilson Ferreira withdrew as his party’s presidential nominee, which named Alberto Sáenz de Zumarán to replace him, with the understanding that if the latter won the elections he would call for new elections without limitations on candidates or voters.
Although not all of the political leaders will participate as candidates in the elections of November 25, since some continue to be proscribed, nor will all Uruguayans be allowed to vote, the Commission has received considerable information to the effect that the elections will be free and that their results will effectively reflect the will of the voters. In addition, the Commission has been informed of the formal commitment undertaken by the Armed Forces to respect the election outcome.
6. Below, over the period under consideration in this report the Commission will study the observance in Uruguay of the principal rights guaranteed by the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.
7. With respect to the right to life, during this period the Commission received a denunciation concerning the death of Dr. Vladimir Roslik, who died while in detention.
According to the denunciation, Dr. Roslik was detained together with ten other persons at 4:00 a.m. on April 15, 1984, and taken to Regiment Nº 9 of the Cavalry in the city of Fray Bentos. On the morning of Monday April 16th, Roslik’s family members were informed of his death. An autopsy stated the cause of death to be a cardiac arrest. His family requested a second autopsy to be performed by doctors in their trust, which revealed that the death of Dr. Roslik was due to torture.
The Commission, by telegram of April 19, 1984, addressed to the Government of Uruguay, requested information with respect to the conflicting conclusions of the autopsies performed on Dr. Roslik, and has not yet received a reply.
Due to publicity and great concern with regard to this case, the President of the Supreme Military Court, Col. Federico Silva Ledesma, convoked a press conference on May 30, 1984, at which he announced that two army officers involved in the death of Dr. Roslik had been tried, but he refrained from identifying them.
8. With respect to the right to personal freedom, in March of 1984 significant numbers of political prisoners were released. On March 3 of 1984, José Luis Massera, a 68 year-old distinguished mathematician, and First Secretary of the Communist Party, was released after nine years imprisonment in a military establishment as part of an original twenty-year sentence.
General Liber Seregni, aged 68, and leader of the Frente Amplio, was released on March 19, 1984. He had also been in detention for 9 years of an original sentence of fourteen years.
On July 6, 1984, the Armed Forces reported that there were 674 political prisoners in Uruguay: 69 women and 605 men. At the time of approval of this Report, according to information received by the Commission, this figure has been reduced to approximately 500.
9. The Commission has received complaints presented by family members of released prisoners who appear to have been victims of severe torture while in detention, and they denounce serious health problems that many of them suffered while in detention.
The Commission also has abundant information and testimony about doctors who have participated in the torture of prisoners. In this regard, the national medical convention, meeting in Montevideo last July, decided to establish a court to investigate members of its profession who participated in torture sessions, a fact that the Commission considers highly positive, since the participation of doctors in torture is truly repugnant.
10. In addition, the Commission has received numerous denunciations from the family members of detainees concerning the prison conditions in the prisons Libertad and Punta de Rieles.
In the women’s prison, Punta de Rieles, the detainees are subjected to frequent and arbitrary punishment such as prohibition of visits, withholding of correspondence or packages from their families, and suspension of recreation. Prison visits are limited to half an hour and are allowed only once every fifteen days, i.e., prisoners are allowed to visit with their families for a total of twelve hours per year.
According to denunciations received by the Commission, most of the women detained in Punta de Rieles have been imprisoned for over twelve years. These prisoners are kept in a constant state of tension, live in anti-hygienic circumstances, and receive inadequate food.
The prison regime established in the prisons Libertad and Punta de Rieles have been denounced to the Commission as designed to physically and psychologically break the detainees. A former prisoner described the Libertad prison to this Commission in the following terms:
The mechanisms used for destruction are subtle, disguised under an apparently correct exterior with respect to physical, material and health conditions in the prison. That is what made it difficult to make the delegations from the International Committee of the Red Cross understand the nature of the repression and the inhuman conditions of the prison. They consist fundamentally in systematic and prolonged psychological pressure over a number of years. It is like the effect of a drop of water on a rock; it is difficult for someone who has not experienced it to imagine how completely a person can deteriorate under insult, humiliation and banging on windows, several times day and night, over more than ten years.
11. A situation that has particularly concerned the Commission is that of persons who have been resentenced while in detention. During the past year, these persons have not received the benefit of trial, but have been informed of their additional sentences by the prison guards of the centers in which they are detained. Despite repeated requests by the Commission to the Government of Uruguay to send information on the trials of these persons, the Commission to date has received no reply. These resentenced persons have been charged with a new crime defined by the Armed Forces as “subversive association,” said to have been committed while in prison.
The persons who have been retried and whose cases are before this Commission include: 1) Carlos Alcoba (Case Nº 8031); 2) Luis Ardíssono Guzzetti (Case Nº 8085); 3) Luis Bernier Ferreiro (Case Nº 9259); 4) Rudemar Carabajales Monroy (Case Nº 9251); 5) Dionisio Curbelo (Case Nº 7926); 6) Juan José Cruz (Case Nº 7926); 7) José Frustaccio de los Santos (Case Nº 9253); 8) Alfredo Gómez Selay (Case Nº 9254); 9) Daniel Guinovart Tonelli (Case Nº 9256); 10) Carlos Guimaraes González (Case Nº 9255); 11) Augusto Kennedy Arbiza (Case Nº 7816); 12) Santiago Lungo (Case Nº 7926); 13) Raúl Martínez Machado (Case Nº 7926); 14) Américo Méndez (Case Nº 9252); 15) Leonardo Moreira Etchechuri (Case Nº 9252); 16) Orlando Pereira (Case Nº 7926); 17) Milton Ramírez (Case Nº 7926); 18) Washington Rodríguez Beletti (Case Nº 9238); 19) Víctor Romano (Case Nº 7926); and 20) Demetrio Stravrinakis Maurido (Case Nº 9258).
12. With respect to freedom of assembly, despite the Decree of August 2, 1983, prohibiting all public political activity and dissemination by the communications media of political news or commentary, Uruguayans have held several demonstrations over the past year. The largest took place on November 27 of 1983, with the participation of over 400,000 persons, who called for the return to democracy.
Likewise, a number of work stoppages, political demonstrations and even the first general strike held on January 18, 1984, were carried out peacefully and without incident.
13. Since August 8, 1984, with the repeal of the decree of August 2, 1983, which contained restrictions on the communications media, freedom of expression has been restored. Previously, during the almost three years of the government of General Alvarez, there have been thirty cases of newspaper closings in Uruguay and one closing of a radio and television station.
14. Despite the above-mentioned limitations, the Commission considers that the situation of human rights in Uruguay has improved considerably in recent months, especially as a result of the agreement between some political parties and the Armed Forces, which has assured the holding of elections in November of this year, the restoration of the 1967 Constitution and the return to democratic institutions.
Nevertheless, the Commission deplores the arbitrary detention of the leader of the Blanco Party, Mr. Wilson Ferreira Aldunate, and the fact that this proscription excludes him from the electoral process, and also the exclusion of other political leaders, which affects the normal development of the elections.
At the same time, the Commission trusts that the new government, which comes into office on March 1, 1985, and the democratic institutions that will be reestablished from that date, will be able to correct the current limitations on human rights in Uruguay.