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date: 27 March 2023

The Evolution of Transitional Justice in Uruguaylocked

The Evolution of Transitional Justice in Uruguaylocked

  • Debbie SharnakDebbie SharnakRowan University


Uruguay passed the Ley de Caducidad de la Pretensión Punitiva del Estado (Law on the Expiration of the Punitive Claims of the States or Law of Expiry) in December 1986, which provided amnesty for all members of the military and security personnel involved in crimes during the nation’s military rule (1973–1985). A referendum in 1989 democratically affirmed the law, producing a silencing about accountability efforts in Uruguay in subsequent years. As such, much of the literature that emerged in the 1990s about the field of transitional justice excluded Uruguay, considering it a failure to engage with justice initiatives. Since 2000, however, Uruguay has followed a winding path toward employing accountability measures. This has included a difficult process of overturning its amnesty law, some selected domestic court cases, as well as some truth-telling initiatives, reparations, and memorialization. Overall, Uruguay’s experience and evolution toward engaging transitional justice initiatives represent a nonlinear progress of accountability that depended on a combination of domestic political will, friendly courts or judges, international legal and norm shifts, and sustained civil society activism.1 Both Uruguay’s eventual engagement with justice initiatives and expanding ideas about what constitutes transitional justice have driven the country’s re-emergence in scholarship within the field of transitional justice. Uruguay’s thirty-five-year battle Offers an example of a non-teleological path of transitional justice. Additionally, the case of Uruguay urges consideration of understanding the longer timeframes that justice might take to achieve, even in stable democracies.


  • History of Southern Spanish America
  • 1991 and After

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