COMMITTEE ON ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCES EXAMINES REPORT OF URUGUAY
Report of Uruguay is the First Ever to be Considered by the Committee
10 April 2013
The Committee on Enforced Disappearances today concluded its consideration of the initial report submitted by Uruguay on how it implements the provisions of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances. The report of Uruguay is the first ever to be reviewed by the Committee.
Presenting the report, Ricardo Gonzales, Director-General of Political Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uruguay, said the session was of double significance to them as not only was it the first presentation by a country to the Committee this session, Uruguay was the first country to present its report to the Committee at all, a source of particular pride. Uruguay was unwaveringly committed to human rights and to the multilateral system of human rights protection and had ratified all of the fundamental human rights treaties as well as their Optional Protocols. The despicable practice of enforced disappearance began in Uruguay before the Convention came into force, during the period of civil-military Government, and the majority of those cases had not been resolved. The pain felt by victims and their families and the social repercussions of such crimes in Uruguay left a feeling of rejection and indignation against those barbaric acts. To rectify the situation the Government had launched legal and political solutions to the investigation and sanction of those crimes, as well as for the prevention of future cases.
Federico Perazza, Director of Human Rights at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uruguay, also presenting the report, said Uruguay criminalized enforced disappearance in 1986, and ruled that the widespread or systematic practice of enforced disappearance, as well as isolated cases, constituted a crime against humanity as defined in applicable international law. Since the entry into force of the Convention no case of enforced disappearance had been recorded in Uruguay. Uruguay absolutely prohibited enforced disappearance, not only in times of peace but in all scenarios, for example a state of war or internal political instability.
During the dialogue several Experts praised the delegation for Uruguay’s enshrinement of enforced disappearance in domestic legislation in accordance with the Convention and declaring it a crime against humanity, even in isolated cases. Committee Experts questioned the delegation on several issues, including the broad range of sentences (from 2 to 25 years) available for the crime of enforced disappearance, about extradition and non refoulement, DNA testing of victims and their families, training for law enforcement officials, support for victims and witnesses in court cases, clemency and judicial independence.
In concluding remarks, Juan José López Ortega, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur, noted that the delegation had shown their doctrinal position with regard to the Convention. He believed they were heading in the right direction, and thanked them for the clarification on matters including the judicial position. Reforms needed to be carried out both in laws and in institutions, and Uruguay recognized that.
Emmanuel Decaux, Chairperson of the Committee, said the delegation – the first to appear before the Committee – had set the standard very high with a very constructive dialogue. He also paid tribute to the participation of non-governmental organizations whose presence and written submissions had greatly contributed to the dialogue.
The delegation of Uruguay consisted of representatives from the Human Rights and Humanitarian Law Division of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Directorate of National Human Rights Institute, the President’s Human Rights Secretariat, the Ministry of the Interior, and the Permanent Mission of Uruguay to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The next public meeting of the Committee will be at 3 p.m. on Thursday, 11 April when it will start to review the initial report of France (CED/C/FRA/1).
The initial report of Uruguay can be read here: CED/C/URY/1.
Presentation of the Report
RICARDO GONZALES, Director-General of Political Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uruguay, said the session was of double significance to them as not only was it the first presentation by a country to the Committee this session, Uruguay was the first country to present its report to the Committee at all, a source of particular pride. Uruguay was unwaveringly committed to human rights and to the multilateral system of human rights protection. Uruguay had ratified all of the fundamental treaties in the area of human rights as well as their Optional Protocols. It was thus collaborating fully with all of the system, including allowing Special Procedures to visit the country. For example in the last few years Uruguay had hosted several visits such as by the Special Rapporteur on torture, the Independent Expert on access to safe drinking water and the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression.
The report highlighted that the fight against the despicable practice of enforced disappearance began in Uruguay before the Convention came into force. To put it into context, during the period of civil-military Government enforced disappearances occurred in Uruguay, as well as in other countries in the region, and the majority of those cases had not been resolved. The pain felt by victims and their families and the social repercussions of such crimes in Uruguay left a feeling of rejection and indignation against those barbaric acts. To rectify the situation the Government had launched legal and political solutions to the investigation and sanction of those crimes, as well as for the prevention of future cases.
Mr. Gonzales announced an important update to the report. Following its submission, the Supreme Court of Uruguay, on 22 February 2013, declared that two articles of Law 18.831 of 27 October 2011 were unconstitutional, a ruling that superseded the Limitations Act. That finding was referred to in the report in paragraphs 47, 234 and 235. It was directly linked to clarifying and penalising crimes committed during the period of civil-military dictatorship, including enforced disappearance, between 1986 and the setting up of that law in October 2011 and found that those crimes constituted crimes against humanity. A second finding from the Supreme Court related to the case of the disappearance of the teacher Julio Castro. The judgements taking place in various courts of human rights were now in an unequal position regarding the statute of limitations of that crime. As a result the Supreme Court of Justice expressed itself against the concept of the lack of statute of limitations. The Uruguayan Government was driven to move forward in achieving truth and justice and meeting its international obligations. Uruguay fully recognized that it had weaknesses in that field and wanted to move forward and improve its system with the help of the Committee.
FEDERICO PERAZZA, Director of Human Rights at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uruguay, said Uruguay criminalized enforced disappearance in 1986, and ruled that the widespread or systematic practice of enforced disappearance, as well as isolated cases, constituted a crime against humanity as defined in applicable international law. Since the entry into force of the Convention no case of enforced disappearance had been recorded in Uruguay; there were currently no cases. Uruguay absolutely prohibited enforced disappearance, not only in times of peace but in all scenarios, for example a state of war or internal political instability. Enshrined in the human rights convention known as the San Jose Articles, situations of war or other threats to the sovereignty of the State party did not allow the State to suspend human rights such as the right to be free from enforced disappearance. In any case, those responsible would always be brought to justice. Under Uruguayan law enforced disappearance was seen as a permanent crime, and many references were made to the Convention in national legislation. The report not only presented the steps made forward but also outlined the challenges remaining for the Uruguay Government to fully implement the Convention. The delegation would deal not only with the positive points but also the challenges.
Questions from Committee Experts
JUAN JOSÉ LÓPEZ ORTEGA, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur, began by congratulating the delegation on being the first State to comply with the Convention obligations and the first State to come before the Committee, something achieved in an incredibly tight timeframe. He further congratulated the delegation on criminalizing enforced disappearance and declaring it a crime against humanity.
Turning to sentencing, the Expert said it seemed excessively broad as the penalty for committing enforced disappearance was between 2 and 25 years in prison. That allowed a very broad margin of discretion to the sentencing judge. Furthermore, since enforced disappearance was criminalized two types of conduct of different gravity were allowed for: could the Committee be given some example scenarios, including a scenario that might lead to a sentence of just two years. The Expert asked about the budgetary autonomy of the national human rights institution, the Uruguayan National Institute. He also requested clarification on the new legal amendments.
There had been two cases where the Supreme Court found that homicide had been committed rather than enforced disappearance, given that the victims were probably now dead and the time lapsed since the crime was committed. A concern was brought to the Committee regarding that reclassification: could the delegation please explain that. Was it that the change arose from temporary law, which could not be applied retroactively?
As the State party did now allow extradition in cases of enforced disappearance, could the delegation shed light on whether double-criminality was possible? Did Uruguay intend to address reform of criminal proceedings by giving victims a key role and recognizing their right to take part in criminal investigations?
Significant efforts had been made recently in Uruguay, which were even more appreciated given the brief background of the situation of enforced disappearance in Uruguay which showed the extent of the task at hand. The Expert was delighted to see that enforced disappearance had been enshrined in domestic legislation in accordance with the Convention. The Expert was also pleased that enforced disappearances were considered a crime against humanity, even in isolated cases, and that it was a continuous crime prohibited under any circumstances. The Expert also praised the applicability of the Statute of Limitations, and the status of clemency, particularly for members of the military. The Expert asked for clarification of what was meant by ‘non-State actors’ who could commit the crime of enforced disappearance outside the realm of the State. Were they considered ordinary criminals?
An Expert asked the delegation to indicate where civil society had contributed to the report, and whether the families of victims had also been consulted in its drafting. Another Expert asked a more general question about the activities of the Uruguayan National Institute.
Judicial independence was raised, with an Expert enquiring about the case of Uruguayan Judge Mariana Moto, who had been removed by the Supreme Court from her work investigating crimes perpetrated by the former dictatorship. Could the delegation inform the Committee about that situation?
Response by the Delegation
Starting with the legal ranking of the Convention in national legislation, a delegate said that the Constitution did not actually establish a rank or standing of international conventions: in Uruguay international instruments that had constitutional standing were not ranked.
The work of the Uruguayan National Institute had included some interventions, a delegate said. It was the national mechanism to prevent torture, and according to legal provisions worked alongside the Uruguayan chancery, and the Ombudsman. Regarding accreditation before the United Nations, the National Institute planned to begin that process by submitting the relevant documents to Parliament this month. Of course the United Nations required that national human rights institutions were in operation for one year before they were eligible for accreditation, and the Uruguayan National Institute would complete that year in July 2013. The Institute had its own budget and had budgetary independence. It was true that it could gain greater autonomy, for example by contacting public employees, dealing with certain litigations or with constitutional matters.
Concerning the minimum and maximum sentence for crimes of enforced disappearance (between 2 years and 25 years), the penitentiary sentence in Uruguay was different from a prison sentence which was the reason for the broad sentence. The two-year sentence could be applied in isolated cases or for exceptional cases where a person did not provide information on the whereabouts of a victim of enforced disappearance, in exceptional circumstances. For example a junior member of the police or the military, who may be aware of the whereabouts of a disappeared person but had not had the opportunity to go to the authorities with that information. Enforced disappearance was a product of the political situation, and historically victims were disappeared because of political situations. However when enforced disappearance was used as an objective to get rid of, or exterminate, a group of persons, the minimum sentence was 15 years. The issue of intention was dealt with in the national Criminal Code, where intent was punishable according to the seriousness of the crime and the danger of the victim.
Regarding penalties for cases of persons who had obstructed investigations into enforced disappearance, the Government believed that the law was entirely sufficient to dissuade or if necessary to penalize any such conduct that might suggest an obstruction to a criminal investigation. The Government showed political will not to increase the number of criminalized activities.
In terms of victim protection a State policy to provide rehabilitation for victims was being developed, while the Government promoted and protected all efforts to provide such protection and rehabilitation. The Government tried to avoid making any new damage through its procedure to help victims and their families; that mis-practice of public administration could place more weight on people involved in and affected by enforced disappearances.
During the debate in Uruguay there was a suggestion that specialized courts for human rights cases be set up. However the reality was that all courts were human rights courts – it would not make sense to set up specialized courts. There was a certain margin for debate both here in the Committee and domestically about that. Such a move would require constitutional reform: a very complex process which required a level of consensus throughout the population. While substantial reform of the whole legal system would be welcomed by the Government, it was not planned in the immediate future.
Concerning extradition, a delegate confirmed that there was no obstacle, legal or political, in applying the convention signed by Uruguay in the area of extradition. Uruguay was convinced that the International Convention on Enforced Disappearances, which received the highest priority, allowed for extradition when there was no treaty to that regard. The Government did not think that any extra legislation was needed. Uruguay had bilateral agreements with Argentina, Chile and Mexico, and although enforced disappearance was not specifically mentioned it was included as a crime that carried a penalty involving deprivation of liberty. Furthermore, the delegate confirmed that Uruguay did allow extradition of its own citizens, pursuant to a legal precedent and international treaties.
When drafting the report various stakeholders were consulted, and some held a direct mandate. Informal meetings were held with some non-governmental organizations and members of civil society. The current Minister for Foreign Affairs presented the finished report formally to non-governmental organizations and civil society. The Government believed the drafting of alternative reports by those bodies were a positive thing and they welcomed the three that were presented. The Government was delighted that Amnesty International, the Association of Family Members of Victims and the National Human Rights Institution supported an alternative vision to that presented by the Uruguayan report. That was the type of relationship that Uruguay had with civil society.
Turning to non-State actors, there was a key debate about how parties that had no link to the State could be held responsible for crimes. Non-State actors did commit crimes of enforced disappearance, kidnapping and so on. But it was not the type of State-committed crime that had been seen previously in South America. Those cases were not penalized as enforced disappearance as the Criminal Code penalized them sufficiently under common crimes such as deprivation of liberty, grievous bodily harm, violence and so on.
A delegate returned to the issue of extradition to refer to a 1996 agreement made between Uruguay and Spain. That agreement specifically allowed for extradition of nationals.
Turning to the effect of the Supreme Court defining enforced disappearance as being a crime against humanity, a delegate said the Supreme Court adopted that decision within its remit under the Constitution. The impact of that ruling on cases that today were being examined and related to enforced disappearance committed during the dictatorship was difficult to say, as the ruling was unclear and had a linear effect.
A delegate recalled how many Uruguayans were disappeared in neighbouring countries in Latin America, and how they were moved between countries. The Government had managed to establish a number of 178 victims, although that number could grow as more people were coming forward to report that they had also been disappeared.
Further Questions from Experts
An Expert returned to the issue of sentencing, asking why the maximum sentence for homicide was 30 years, but it was 25 years for enforced disappearance. He understood that if enforced disappearance had taken place for genocide purposes the sentence bracket increased from 15 to 30 years. What were the reasons for the Criminal Code being more favourable towards homicide sentencing? While the State party had been particularly diligent in that area, if the courts tried to use that qualification this could cause problems in the future, say for cases of prolonged disappearances.
Also, it was a problem that a person found guilty of enforced disappearance could be sentenced to as little as two years; and that was for a crime regarded in domestic legislation as a crime against humanity. What legislation was in place to prevent that from happening?
Turning to protection measures, as the psychologist on the delegation pointed out, there were some measures in place, an Expert said. However if they needed to go further, for example if the family of a victim felt at risk, could they obtain a protection measure from a judge? Which judge could they go to and what measures could he or she adopt?
Response by the Delegation
On 1 March 1985, the date when democracy was restored in Uruguay, the qualification of homicide was established. It did not mean that it was a more serious crime than enforced disappearance. However, for enforced disappearance it was not clear when to start counting; disappeared people must be dead in order for the maximum penalty to be applied. That included complications such as identifying remains.
Concerning the principle of non refoulement, a delegate said Uruguay had various international instruments of cooperation, both legal and other. For example, a key instrument was the agreement with neighbouring Argentina, which had deepened in recent years. Given that the majority of Uruguayan victims of enforced disappearance were taken to Argentina it was very important, and the Governments of Uruguay and Argentina were working well together to achieve truth and justice.
Examples of cooperation included a mechanism between the Human Rights Secretariats of Uruguay and Argentina that shared documents and information on Uruguayan citizens suspected of being victims who were detained and disappeared on Argentinean territory. Another example was the sharing of case details of young people who were the children of victims of enforced disappearance, which had led to DNA tests on them to determine who they were. A further example, at the legal level, was a judicial agreement for the transfer of remains, so that remains found in Argentina could be transferred to Uruguay for identification, and visa versa. The Forum for Preserving Memory and Truth was yet another cooperative mechanism. All mechanisms worked together as a whole, in order to bring evidence and proof of crimes together to allow a prosecution to begin. Sharing information also allowed the authorities to respond more quickly to alleged cases.
Regarding aggravating circumstances leading to enforced disappearance and the legal provisions Uruguay planned in order to comply with the Convention, national law made it clear that aggravating circumstances included if the crime was committed against a child, a teenager, a pregnant woman, mental or physically handicapped persons, senior citizens, a person who was ill, or whole family groups. The relatives of victims of those crimes – including both married spouses and cohabiting partners – were also included in that list.
Questions from Experts
JUAN JOSÉ LÓPEZ ORTEGA, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur, thanked the delegation for the great depth of information they were providing and for their very comprehensive answers to the Committee’s questions. However, there remained some areas in which the Committee sought clarification, such as who provided the guarantees of non refoulement and how that procedure then took place. Could a defence lawyer interfere at a particular time?
Furthermore, it seemed that the police had the power to place into custody, or even solitary confinement, a person accused of enforced disappearance, and then had to bring that person before a judge as soon as possible, noted the Country Rapporteur. When might an individual be held in incommunicado detention, for how long and how did it affect their rights? Would the individuals have access to a lawyer and would they be able to inform their families of their whereabouts?
Regarding habeas corpus, the report suggested that a draft law provided regulations on habeas corpus that would make it effective in the courts. Given that the guarantee provided by habeas corpus already existed in Uruguayan law, how would that new law coincide? Was there a uniform practice or did it depend upon the discretion of each judge? What guarantees existed in order to monitor police actions and the legality of holding people in that way? Could that instrument be abused?
The Country Rapporteur turned to the Government’s DNA databases saying it was important that data on people contained therein met the rights associated with publicly-held information. What about people’s right to privacy, a right that had been widely discussed for the past two decades? Access to that information was not provided for victims of enforced disappearance, but could they access it via human rights legislation? What legislation was in place currently? When a person provided a DNA or genetic sample what information was given to them about how it would be used and kept, and how was their consent taken? If the person refused to consent to a DNA sample could a court overrule them? What about cases of taking DNA samples from minors, those under 18 years of age? Furthermore if a child had sufficient understanding of what was happening was there a forum where they could express their feelings?
The delegation had admitted that they had some gaps in training on the topic, said the Country Rapporteur, praising them for their honesty on that. He asked what strategies were in place to raise awareness of the issue of enforced disappearance, and to provide relevant training, particularly for members of the military and law enforcement groups.
The Country Rapporteur indicated that he thought an entire group – that of minors, or children – were not wholly catered for by domestic laws on enforced disappearance. It still seemed that the abduction of children or the elimination of evidence to prove the abduction of minors was not included as enforced disappearance.
Another Committee Expert raised the issue of secret detention, and further asked about the training of officials on the rights of victims. The report stated that as far as child abduction, or the removal of children, was concerned there was no specific sanction for it, although the Criminal Code did provide for punishment of anyone who altered the civil record of a child. What was the difference between a ‘child’ and an ‘adolescent’ in legal terms?
An Expert asked how the amparo procedure referred to in paragraph 216 of the report differed from the remedy of habeas corpus. Had the State party enacted any legislation on terrorism, emergency rule or similar grounds that could threaten the principle of non refoulement, or extradition?
How were victims and witnesses treated during the legal process? Did they receive any psychological care, or other support, for example? Was there a care programme or specific protocol in existence to ensure that victims were not re-victimised a second time by appearing in court?
What benefits had been observed from training programmes that had already been introduced, an Expert asked. Training was intended to bring about a change in behaviour and attitude, and he was interested to hear how the various programmes referred to in the report had bourn fruit. Without suggesting interference in the work of the universities and the academies, what programmes could be established to train future judges and lawyers in enforced disappearance and related subjects?
Response from the Delegation
Starting with the issue of non refoulement, a delegate said that they did list four international instruments that contained the principle of non refoulement in their written answers to the Committee. The question was particularly on whether non refoulement – or `on return’ - was included in domestic law, the delegate said, confirming that yes, it was. The principle applied to refugees in Uruguay, no Uruguayan authority could refuse entry to a refugee or asylum seeker arriving at a Uruguayan border if there was risk to their life or well-being. The Refugee Commission made that decision; it was a unique cross-cutting body made up of stakeholders from various Government ministries as well as individuals from outside the Executive Branch, such as civil society and non-governmental organization representatives. If there was such a threat the person was allowed into the country and offered all help possibly to help them re-settle, put down roots and create a new life for themselves in Uruguay.
Regarding the guarantees and safeguarding in place to assure the protection of persons held in incommunicado detention by the police, a delegate said that procedure could last for 24 hours and that there was no protocol to govern the system of 24-hour incommunicado detention.
The guarantee of habeas corpus was explicitly set out in the Constitution. During the period of dictatorship it was on the Statute Books but not respected and many cases that tried to apply habeas corpus were ignored. To amend that a law had been drafted which would ensure habeas corpus was always respected: every court in the country could, as an emergency measure, apply habeas corpus and there would be no restrictions on which court could do it. Habeas corpus literally means ‘bring forth the body’ and so upon application the body – the person concerned – would be brought into the court and shown to the judge, and its application was immediate. Civil society and non-governmental organizations also had access to use habeas corpus in addition to judges and magistrates, for instance in visiting places of deprivation of liberty. Sometimes too many people could make those visits and it was difficult to organize. The guarantee of amparo was from 50 years ago and thus not included in the Constitution. Uruguay was not the only country in the region to be in that situation, in fact only Brazil had amparo included in its Constitution. The difference between the two was that habeas corpus was exclusively used for deprivation of liberty while amparo was used for all violations of fundamental rights and liberties or threats of violations. A request for amparo immediately triggered a judge-led hearing to take place within three days, and the judge must rule at that hearing.
In 2005 a process of reform of the penitentiary system in Uruguay began, as the penitentiary system had deteriorated and people were being held in inhumane conditions at the turn of the century, in a throwback to the dictatorial regime of the 1970s and 1980s. Despite the broad and widespread deterioration of prisons a register of persons deprived of their liberty had been very carefully kept throughout the dictatorship and into the present day, and had always been filled out diligently. With the support of Spain, specifically the authorities of Catalonia, the Government was maintaining and improving its registry and digitalizing it, moving it from hand-written form and creating new software for it. On 20 February this year, for example, they knew that exactly 9,228 persons were deprived of their liberty in Uruguay. They had data on their case, their well-being and health, the status of their trial and appeals system and more. The new software would be up and running by the end of the year.
There were no express rights for victims of enforced disappearance to access publically-held information, it was true. However, a victim could access information via the National Human Rights Institution or a human rights non-governmental organization. The domestic law outlined that the right to information was a human right and therefore people must have access to all information held on them in public or privately held databases, upon proof of identity. Any relative of a deceased person had the option to request information on their relative upon showing proof of the relationship. If the person was obstructed in accessing information held on them, or did not agree with the data held on them, they could bring about a court ruling. Uruguay had had many such people going to court to do just that, which proved that the legislation was working in victims’ favour.
The Genetic Bank was responsible for the collection of DNA samples, a delegate explained, and a request for a sample to be taken could come from an interested individual or from a judge. An individual had the right to refuse to give a DNA sample. There were extensive guarantees on that.
The Government recognized that specific training courses on enforced disappearance and the role of the State were not given, and that the Convention on Enforced Disappearance should be studied. However, that did not mean that human rights training was not given generally. In police training a possible solution could be to resort to international cooperation, such as benefitting from assistance offered by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations Development Programme or the Government of Spain.
The centre in charge of the training of judges depended upon the judicial branch of the government, and came under the remit of the Supreme Court. The Government needed to redouble its efforts in the field of training for the judiciary, lawyers, ombudsmen, public defenders, prosecutors and more. In other fields, such as law schools, human rights training was strongly valued and always featured; in fact it was given even in universities and some schools.
Regarding strategies, Uruguay had just committed itself to launching a national plan for human rights, stemming from the 1993 Vienna Conference. In 2009, in its Universal Period Review, Uruguay committed itself to follow-up on that and just a few weeks ago launched the National Plan for Co-Existence and Human Rights. That plan would lead to the National Plan for Human Rights Education and Training.
A delegate spoke widely about the importance of discussing so many details about dealing with enforced disappearance. He said that enforced disappearance was as far-reaching as the issue of terrorism, and crucial to deal with. Uruguay was trying to find solutions for reparation, remedies and moral reparations which were crucial in the field of enforced disappearance.
Regarding the definition of a victim, a national law provided for that, specifying explicitly that reparation for victims should be comprehensive and include economic compensation, damages, and very importantly, the right to truth. Reparations should be extended to family members and/or the community to which the disappeared person belonged. The reparations to communities would, in all likelihood, not be economic, pecuniary, but be about the right to truth. That was what had been seen so far. Of course there were flaws in how those reparations had been enforced, for example in the symbolic value, but more needed to be done. The concept of victim in domestic law was faithful to the Convention.
A delegate referred to the 2011 case of Gelman versus Uruguay, a case brought by a child who was kidnapped from her parents and raised in Uruguay, heard by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. In that case Uruguay was found guilty, Uruguay’s President granted symbolic reparation at a ceremony in April 2012 which took place in front of all the Government, judiciary, the armed forces and other key representatives. The President spoke about Uruguay’s culpability in that case and presented moral reparations. To continue the quest for truth, the fight for truth was a debt owed by Uruguay to victims of enforced disappearance, a debt that must be paid.
Regarding the difference between children and adolescents as victims in aggravating circumstances, a delegate explained that the authorities covered the needs of children between birth and 18 years of age as contained in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Children and Young People’s Code of Uruguay defined a child as between birth and 13 years, and an adolescent from 13 to 18 years. At the age of 13 a child had more reasoning capacity, and most of the region used the same definition.
JUAN JOSÉ LÓPEZ ORTEGA, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur, concluded that the delegation had clarified their position and shown their doctrinal position with regard to the Convention. He believed they were heading in the right direction. As tended in matters pertaining to the law, matters moved slowly, much like tectonic plates! The delegation also clarified the judicial position surrounding crimes similar to enforced disappearance, such as homicide, as well as motivational grounds. The delegation’s assessment of the role of the National Human Rights Institution was extremely clear, but the Institute’s role should be strengthened and given more budgetary autonomy in order to give it guaranteed independence. Reforms needed to be carried out both in laws and in institutions and Uruguay recognized that.
RICARDO GONZALES, Director-General of Political Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, thanked the Committee for a very useful and constructive dialogue, adding that as the first country to appear at this Committee they were aware that they were all learning how best to protect victims from the crime of enforced disappearance.
EMMANUEL DECAUX, Chairperson of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances, thanked the delegation for being the brave ones who accepted to come first. They had set the standard very high with a very constructive dialogue and were a particularly competent delegation. He also paid tribute to the participation of non-governmental organizations whose presence and written submissions had greatly contributed to the dialogue. Uruguay was a model to other countries in terms of submitting their report. Many questions had been asked, and some clarification was needed for some points, such as on ‘additional’ or ‘complimentary’ sentencing. The strategies on education were very interesting.
For use of information media; not an official record