This article attempts to explain why Uruguayan judges have lagged behind judges in Chile and Argentina in the prosecution of the military for human rights violations committed during the dictatorship period in the 1970s and 1980s. By tracing judicial human rights activity in Uruguay from the transition to democratic rule in 1985 until the end of 2002, I argue that Uruguayan judges have been actively restricted by an aggressive anti-human rights policy expressed through a national amnesty law and explicit executive interference in judicial matters. Structural changes to the judiciary might have aided Uruguayan judges to overcome these barriers. Instead, failure to reform the judiciary has prolonged its conservative nature and made judges slow in responding to international legal development in the human rights field.