This Sunday, November 30 2014, Uruguayans will choose their next president and the country will celebrate 30 years of democratic elections after over a decade of civil-military dictatorship.
The country has come a long way since the reinstatement of democracy and has been praised for its progressive achievements in human rights issues, taking the lead on making legal same-sex marriage, guaranteeing women’s right to safe and legal abortion, and legalizing and regulating the production, sale, and consumption of marijuana. However, the legacy of the dictatorship remains an “unfinished business” for Uruguayan society and the country has faced strong criticisms for its inertia in addressing the systematic human rights violations that occurred between June 1973 and February 1985 which included the systematic use of torture, political imprisonment, and forced disappearance.
Pablo de Greiff—the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Promotion of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of non-recurrence—said “A chapter of Uruguay’s recent past is yet to be resolved adequately. In order to move forward and continue on the path of development, the country needs to realize the rights to truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-repetition.”
Due to the lack of discussion and attention to the topic accountability for past crimes in the presidential campaign, sixty academics around the world led by Francesca Lessa signed an open letter addressing the presidential candidates.
The letter requests the next president to tackle as urgent the following three priorities:
1) Remove all obstacles that impede the reporting of human rights violations and the advancement of judicial proceedings in courts without unjustified and undue delays;
2) Establish a formal mechanism to investigate all crimes of the dictatorship — from enforced disappearances and torture, including domestic violence and rape against women and children and sexual crimes, and summary executions, violations of labour rights and freedom of expression, as well as economic-crimes — thus targeting a broad universe of victims;
3) Continue to progress with the design and implementation of public policies for comprehensive reparation for victims, encompassing symbolic and material reparations aimed at all the different categories of victims. Reparation comprises also the right to truth, as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights said, which includes not only the direct victims and their families but the whole society that possesses “the inalienable right to know the truth about what has occurred … in order to avoid a repetition of similar events in the future. ”
No matter who is elected this Sunday, the next government has a unique opportunity to finally break the circle of impunity and lay“a solid foundation for a just and equitable society that will allow new generations to address the challenges of the future”.