Many countries in Latin America and elsewhere in the world are moving in the direction of increased accountability for human right violations, and there is a growing consensus that some crimes simply cannot be exempted from prosecution according to international law. Uruguay seems to have a split response to this international development. It is the only country in the world which has not once, but twice, democratically refused to revoke an amnesty law designed to protect the military from criminal prosecution for the violations that took place during the civilian-military dictatorship (1973-85). This paper examines how (limited) prosecutions have been made possible, in spite of the existing amnesty law and substantial public support for impunity. I argue that there has been a significant shift since the transition to democratic rule in the policy preferences of the main protagonists with respect to retroactive justice (or alternatively: impunity): civil society, politicians, and judges. The combination of civil society demands for justice met by human rights friendly executives and liberal minded judges seem to be the main explanation for the recent advancement in retributive justice. (English version. Original publication is in Spanish).

Elin Skaar

Senior Researcher, Coordinator: Rights and Legal Institutions

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