HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE CONSIDER REPORT OF URUGUAY
24 October 2013
The Human Rights Committee this afternoon concluded its consideration of the fifth periodic report of Uruguay on its implementation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Presenting the report, Ricardo Gonzalez, General Director for Political Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that since Uruguay’s last report of 1998 the country had changed in many respects: the rights of Uruguayan citizens had been greatly expanded. In June 2012 the Human Rights Institute become operational. Efforts had been made to strengthen gender equality, improve the conditions of migrants and foreign workers, and to fight domestic violence, racism and other forms of discrimination. Same-sex marriages had been recognized, overcrowding in prisons had been reduced and legal and political solutions to the investigation and prosecution of crimes committed during the period of military government continued.
Committee Members commended Uruguay for being a pioneer in many areas of human rights. They asked about the legal framework for the prosecution of crimes committed during the military dictatorship, and about cases of enforced disappearances. Questions were also raised about violence against women, including domestic violence, the extremely high numbers of people held in pre-trial and preventive detention, and prison reform in general. The amparo remedy, the functioning of the Human Rights Institute, trafficking in persons, the rights of persons with disabilities and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, as well as affirmative action for people of indigenous and African descent were also discussed.
Ricardo Gonzalez, in concluding remarks, said the input of the Committee was extremely valuable to the Government, as all three branches of the Government were ready and willing to improve conditions in various areas of human rights in the country.
In concluding remarks, Nigel Rodley, Committee Chairperson, recalled that in the early days of the Committee much of its work had regrettably come from Uruguay, including cases of torture and disappearances. The country had come a long way since then, although it was disconcerting that there were still concerns about impunity. The Government was clearly committed to the reducing prison overcrowding and its openness regarding scrutiny of its prisons was commendable, although the numbers of people in pre-trial and preventive detention were exorbitant.
The delegation of Uruguay included General Director for Political Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Director for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Director in the National Directorate for Human Rights of the Ministry of Education and Culture, Executive Coordinator of the Secretariat for Human Rights of the Presidency, Advisor to the Minister of Interior, the Parliamentary Commissioner in charge of monitoring the conditions of persons deprived of liberty, and the representatives of the Permanent Mission of Uruguay to the United Nations in Geneva.
The Committee would next meet in public at 3 p.m. to continue discussion of Draft General Comment on article 9.
The fifth report of Uruguay can be read via the link: CCPR/C/URY/5.
Presentation of the Report
RICARDO GONZALEZ, General Director for Political Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that since Uruguay’s last report of 1998 the country had changed in many respects. Over the intervening 15 years the rights of Uruguayan citizens had been greatly expanded; efforts had been made to strengthen gender equality, improve the conditions of migrants and foreign workers, and to fight domestic violence, racism and other forms of discrimination. Same-sex marriages had been recognized. Another major step forward was a reduction in overcrowding in prisons, amid general improvements in prison conditions. In 2005 the Ministry for Social Development was created, in addition to several other bodies that could receive complaints regarding human rights violations, many of which were highly appreciated by the civil society. In June 2012 the Human Rights Institute become operational.
Regarding the investigation and prosecution of crimes committed during the period of military government, Mr. Gonzalez said that legal and political solutions had not been exempt from difficulties and stumbling blocks. In 2011, a new law was adopted, which annulled and superseded the 1986 Act on the Expiry of the Punitive Powers of the State, and re-established the punitive powers of the State for the crimes committed during the military dictatorship. In February 2013, the Supreme Court of Uruguay proclaimed as unconstitutional articles two and three of the law that had established that no statute of limitations or other legal instruments could be applied to the period between 1986 and 2011. The Supreme Court also declared that the crimes of the dictatorship constituted crimes against humanity, in line with the definitions in the human rights treaties ratified by Uruguay. Notwithstanding such obstacles, the Government was committed to continuing along the path of justice and was re-affirming its international obligations for ethical and judicial reasons.
Mr. Gonzalez said that during the reporting period Uruguay had further developed cooperation with the multilateral system of protection of human rights. Uruguay had ratified all the fundamental human rights treaties, as well as their optional protocols. It had also hosted visits by several Special Rapporteurs over the past two years. However, Mr. Gonzalez said, those advances were not sufficient and there was always room for improvement, and it was with that belief that the delegation of Uruguay had come before the Committee. Uruguay looked forward to benefiting from the advice of Committee Members, with the view of improving the quality of the policies and implementing them better.
Delegation’s Response to the List of Issues
A delegate said Uruguay was the first country to accept the new optional reporting procedure, which consisted in the adoption of lists of issues by the Committee, which were transmitted to States parties prior to the submission of their periodic reports. The report under consideration had been prepared on the basis of the State party’s responses to the lists of issues. Uruguay believed that the new format favoured dialogue and cooperation, and allowed for a greater focus on the progress made, as well as weaknesses, in the implementation of the Covenant.
Highlighting key pieces of new legislation, a delegate said affirmative action in favour of citizens of African descent was being made law. Persons of African descent had been guaranteed eight per cent of positions in State administration. Trafficking in persons had been defined as a crime against humanity. Uruguay believed in marriage equality, and had approved same sex marriage in May 2013. The minimum age of marriage for both sexes had been increased to 16 years of age. Reports of torture against persons deprived of their liberty were being processed; 29 persons had been deprived of liberty for such offenses.
A number of steps had been taken to combat domestic violence, and Uruguay had listed in detail measures which were being taken in that regard. There was a new registry, while electronic measures were being used for localizing and monitoring offenders and preventing future cases of domestic violence, which had yielded some positive results.
Uruguay was updating its information regarding persons who had been trafficked for work purposes, and the data was being broken down according to gender and how the judiciary had acted. Charges had been raised in several such cases.
Concerning prison reform and the penitentiary system, in the previous 11 months, Uruguay had made important headway, including reconstruction, refurbishment and expansion of existing prisons and construction of new facilities. That had addressed the previously very serious issue of overcrowding, and the situation now was significantly different from the time of the previous report. Progress had also been made in improving the juvenile justice system.
Within the Ministry of Interior, a special team had been created to deal with state terrorism in the recent past. Charges had been brought for 178 cases of forced disappearances; while a further 40 cases were in the process of confirmation. A Secretariat for Human Rights had been created under the Presidency, which dealt with the issue of forced disappearances and worked on defining public policies to remember those who had disappeared.
Important progress had been made regarding legislation dealing with adoption.
Questions by the Experts
The Vice-Chairperson said Uruguay was the first State party to present its report according to the new procedure, which included the adoption of lists of issues by the Committee, which were then transmitted to States parties prior to the submission of their periodic reports. Several Experts expressed satisfaction that the new procedure was now fully in action, benefiting both the Committee and the State Parties, as the report under consideration contained the State party’s answers to the issues submitted by the Experts.
Another Expert commended Uruguay for being at the forefront of the human rights agenda, involving, inter alia, the opposition to death penalty and equality among all, and said that in many areas Uruguay was indeed a pioneer.
The Expert asked about the direct implementation of the Covenant in the State party. How were the use of ‘state emergency’ rulings regulated in the country, and were those provisions in line with the Covenant? Was there a domestic procedure in place to ensure that decisions by the Committee or other similar bodies were implemented? There were complaints that the existing procedure was slow and inefficient, another Expert added. Could Uruguayan legislation be brought into line with the amparo remedy?
The Expert raised the issue of the capacity of the National Human Rights Institution, and expressed concern over its lack of autonomy in hiring staff and other institutional weaknesses. Furthermore, the national preventive mechanism against torture was supposed to be an independent mechanism. What were the relations between that mechanism, the Human Rights Institution and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs?
Another Expert asked what the State was doing to implement recommendations on women and gender equality. An income gap still persisted between women and men, especially in the private sector, and there were also higher rates of unemployment and underemployment among women in Uruguay. Only two women had ever been appointed as judges at the Supreme Court. What was Uruguay doing to address that situation and promote women to high-level decision-making positions?
Uruguay had not been able to reduce the number of women killed as a result of domestic violence, and one out every four women reported being a victim of domestic violence. What was the Government doing to reduce those numbers? What was being done to change the attitudes of perpetrators of domestic violence, and how was support provided to the victims?
An Expert asked about the treatment of persons with disabilities, especially when it came to employment. Had any sanctions been imposed on private employers discriminating against such persons, and had any compensation been provided to the victims? The Expert asked about the status of the draft bill on the affirmative action for people of African descent.
The State party was commended for having exercised leadership when it came to marriage, sexual orientation and gender related issues. The Expert noted that significant level of intolerance towards transgender persons remained nonetheless, and the police had been reported to sometimes be unwilling to protect those people from violence.
Legislation on the same sex marriage was welcomed by another Expert, but he noticed that the legislation did not resolve all the problems of discrimination which homosexual persons were experiencing.
Trafficking in persons, particularly in girls and women for sexual exploitation, remained a problem. What could be done to make efforts to combat the problem more effective? The conviction rate was reported to be rather low. The Expert asked if there were provisions to protect persons trafficked into Uruguay.
Did the State party consider torture a crime against humanity, the Expert asked? Was the statute of limitations applicable to the crime of torture and was the definition of torture going to be included in the Criminal Code? Could superiors in civilian and military institutions be prosecuted for torture?
Regarding the prosecution of crimes committed under the military dictatorship, an Expert asked how Uruguay planned to solve the deadlock between law 18.831 of 2011 and the Supreme Court decision of 2013, to ensuring that impunity did not take place and the State party met its obligations under the Covenant. When it came to forced disappearances, one possibility would be to say that the statute of limitations did not apply, an Expert suggested. Different human rights violations committed during the period of military dictatorship could also generally fall under the same category.
Responses by the Delegation
A delegate stated that the Constitution did not have particular provision establishing a hierarchy of legal instruments for domestic purposes. It was accepted in doctrine that the Covenant would take precedence over domestic legislation under the positive approach. The Covenant was being directly implemented in practice. An inter-ministerial commission had been created to update and continue presentation of the reports of Uruguay before the nine most important human rights committees, and the recommendations of the Human Rights Committee and other monitoring bodies were shared through the inter-institutional commission, which was also expected to work on their implementation.
A delegate recollected that one of the early recommendations of the Human Rights Committee had been to speed up the penal code reform, but there had not been sufficient advance. The State party was lagging behind in that regard, but a bill was currently before the Parliament. A total change of penal system in Uruguay was needed, and a move was planned towards the adversary system, which would require some time. A specific chapter on victims would be introduced, and the procedural code would include pre-trial detention only as the last measure to be applied. Uruguay was turning to the Committee for advice on particular individual cases.
The amparo remedy had been included in the legislation for a while. It was not slow or bureaucratic, and there had been no reported procedural problems with that remedy.
The highest court in Uruguay was the Supreme Court, which had the jurisdiction of the Court of Cassation and the Constitutional Court. The Court was the controller of legal norms and the exclusive competence in the regime, similar to the system of the United States. The Court could make a law inapplicable, but not bring it down. The law would continue to be applied except for those clauses which had been explicitly struck down.
Regarding the legal framework for the National Human Rights Institution and the Ombudsman, a delegate explained that both bodies were created by law in 2008, and only recently became operational. The system was thus still being consolidated, and both institutions were considered to be fundamental. The Institution had five elected members and could appoint thematic rapporteurs and working groups. The ideal situation would be if the Institution did not have any dependence on the existing State institutions. That would be remedied with constitutional changes, under which the Institute and the Ombudsman would be given separate constitutional provisions. An independent budget would then be assigned to those bodies.
Regarding staffing of the National Human Rights Institution, a delegate said the officials working in the national human rights system were there on the basis of the loan system. Uruguay did not want to increase its number of civil servants, which was why the officials had not been hired from outside. Coordination with the national preventive mechanism for torture was conducted through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The idea was to avoid creating multiple bodies which would overlap. Uruguay believed that it would be better to gather, in one collective body, all mechanisms for follow-up, which allowed it to see the cross-cutting nature of human rights and various issues at stake.
The National Gender Council was made up of the representatives of the State, legislature and judiciary. It was a well-defined body which had implemented training courses, promoted protocol to take action on trafficking, which had to be applied across the state system. There was also an inter-institutional commission on gender issues, which was the national authority on women issues in the country.
The law on persons of African descent was a positive law introducing major changes for those persons. It recognized historical discrimination of such persons in Uruguay, which was very important because Uruguay had usually been perceived as the society of white people. All affirmative action of those of African descent was declared to be in national interest and eight per cent of vacant posts should be awarded to persons of African descent. The law also provided for training of persons of African descent. Companies who hired them were given tax breaks, which was an important encouragement for private sector to do so.
A delegate stated that there was a law in force providing quotas for the women candidates at parliamentary elections, which provided that every third candidate on the list had to be a woman. Two of the three major political parties had women representatives.
Women’s employment rate was lower that of men. A national care system was being put in place, because traditionally it was women spent their time caring for the elderly and children. A new law would extend maternity leave and introduce paternity leave, so that the burden of child raising would be shared. Uruguay had also approved the law on domestic work, which was almost exclusively carried out by women. There had been a significant increase in formalizing such work since the adoption of the law.
Domestic violence was a Government priority, and such behaviour had been criminalized in the Penal Code since 1995. In 2002, a Law on Domestic Violence was adopted which expanded the scope of preventive and punitive measures. Ever since then, the Government had continued to fine-tune and further develop measures to combat that issue. An emphasis was also put on public visibility, while special units were being added to police forces. There was ongoing training for the police forces being carried out by the Institute for Women, and supported by the United Nations Development Programme. Those measures were encouraging the population to lodge complaints. More than 60 people had been given electronic bracelets to be monitored more easily.
Uruguay was working on rehabilitating prisoners, which involved treatment for those who had shown violent behaviours, including domestic and sexual violence. There were many different monitoring services.
A delegate said that public policies on persons with disabilities were being adopted in line with the Covenant. Some 500 million USD were planned for social measures in that respect. The Government was aware of the employment issues for persons with disabilities, which was why four per cent of all vacancies had to go to persons with disabilities. Only several departments and regions had been able to meet that quota.
Regarding sexual orientation, a delegate said that homosexual persons were already allowed to adopt children even before the law on equal marriage had been passed. Discrimination in employment and the society at large still existed. The Commission for Refugees had acknowledged that the fear of persecution over sexual orientation could be a cause for claiming refugee status in Uruguay.
Cases of trafficking in persons, both domestically and abroad, were brought to specialized criminal courts. Several large cases involved foreign companies bringing in foreign workers and exploiting them without paying them. When foreign workers wanted to return to their home countries, they were allowed to do so, in line with international standards.
Responses by the Delegation
Regarding the domestic definition of torture, there was a specialized law which defined torture as crime. Such crimes were not subject to the statute of limitations, and were defined as crimes against humanity regardless whether they were wide-spread or individual.
Concerning Law 18.831, a delegate called the existing discrepancy a legal flaw. There was no statute of limitations applied to forced disappearances, but the Supreme Court had recognized forced disappearances as aggravated homicides, which was why the statute of limitations could be applied to them.
There were more than 200 cases of violations of human rights in the recent past before courts at the moment, a number of which had covered torture. There were no political prisoners in Uruguay – that phenomenon no longer existed.
A delegate explained that the Parliamentary Commissioner in charge of monitoring the conditions of persons deprived of liberty monitored conditions in prisons, ensuring that the rights of persons deprived of liberty were upheld, and it was allowed full access to places of detention, through both announced and unannounced visits. Their members were elected by the Parliament on the regular basis.
The amparo remedy was a constitutional right and citizens could use amparo only after they had exhausted all other domestic remedy, which was why amparo actions were now more restricted than they had been beforehand. The complaint had to be heard within three days, and the sentence had to be awarded within 24 hours and carried out within another 24 hours. There was no problem of slowness, but rather a challenge of proving that all other remedies had indeed been exhausted.
Habeas corpus was provided for in the Constitution of Uruguay. There were currently two cases being processed on habeas corpus. The whole process was being reviewed by the Parliament at the moment, and all deprivations of liberty could now be included in the law. The overhaul of the current approach was necessary, which would make pre-trial detention an exception rather than the rule.
Isolated, individual acts of forced disappearances or torture should constitute a crime for which there were no statute of limitations, which could not be subject to amnesty or pardon. Habeas corpus could not be suspended, and emergency measures could not go around that principle.
A delegate explained that, during the dictatorship, military courts used to try civilians, which was no longer the case. Victims used to be overlooked, but necessary steps were being taken to ensure that all due care was now being given to them.
Questions by the Experts
An Expert wanted to know about the status of the bill on marital rape, which was reportedly being considered by the Parliament.
Another Expert expressed his concern regarding the state of emergency, which had to be in line of article 4 of the Convention, providing for rights which could never be suspended, and not only habeas corpus. When would the State party domesticate that provision?
The Human Rights Institute was staffed with ten officials loaned from other institutions, due to the budgetary and hiring constraints. It had to be given a minimum of permanent staff. Could the Committee be assured that the Human Rights Institute would be appropriately strengthened and become operationally functional?
The high rate of those currently still held in pre-trial detention was raised by another Expert, who asked where the State party identified problems in that regard. What were particular proposals the Government had in mind? Would the current long list of offenses which denied bail be reviewed? What alternatives to detention were there in place or were planned to be developed? What was the maximum period an individual could be held before the initiation of trial, and before the termination of trial?
Responses by the Delegation
The State party recognized that there was no law or draft law in place which would criminalize marital rape and intended to bring its legislation in line with the Covenant in that regard, a delegate said. The Parliament was currently looking at the new Criminal Code, and the issue of marital rape would be brought to its attention. A delegate said that the new Criminal Code was expected to be adopted in 2013.
The National Human Rights Institution was the cornerstone institution for Uruguay, and years of hard work had gone into its establishment. There was undisputable and categorical commitment to the strengthening of the Institute. Staffing remained an important issue. Constitutional reforms were not opportune for the time being, but, when they came, the Human Rights Institute would be covered by them.
Regarding detention, a delegate explained that standards promoting habeas corpus would be incorporated. Pre-trial detention was not as much of an issue as keeping in prisons persons during the entire course of their trials. No person could be detained in police stations during trials.
Explaining the high number of persons in preventive and pre-trial detention, the delegate said that one problem came from the fact that there was a long list of crimes which required preventive detention, basically any crime that carried a sentence of two or more years imprisonment. Additionally and person charged with a crime who had been prosecuted previously also had to be detained pre-trial.
Questions by the Experts
An Expert noted that 70 per cent of prison population in Uruguay were not convicted, which was one of the highest rates in the region. What kind of practical measures was the Government contemplating of taking to alleviate the current situation?
The Expert asked for more details regarding the work of the Institute for Children and Adolescents.
A question was asked about possible divergences in perceptions between the Parliamentary Commissioner for prison system and the prosecutors as to what constituted torture, given that only a few complaints raised by the Commissioner had been effectively prosecuted. Could the Inspector General for psychopaths raise cases and submit complaints to the public prosecutor?
More information was requested with regard to the functioning of the family courts and whether they were no able to cope with the large number of pending cases. What percentage of domestic violence cases were being forwarded to criminal courts?
Had the minimum age of marriage for both males and females been established at 16, and why not at 18? Was there any statistics available regarding the percentage of marriages under 18? What was minimum age for driving, buying alcohol, voting or being elected to the Parliament?
An Expert asked why there was such a high percentage (65 to 70 per cent) of persons held in pre-trial detention. What lessons had been learned from those countries that had moved from an inquisitory to accusatory system? What would be done to change the general culture so that there would be assumption of innocence until proven otherwise?
There was a law in Uruguay which mentioned children in conflict with the law, and Expert commented, asking what was being done to avoid excessive pre-trial detention of children. Were options of electronic tracking of children being considered, so that they would not need to be separated from their families?
What was the obligation of the State party regarding the retroactive application of justice for enforced disappearances, for which there were provisions by the Covenant? Enforced disappearances could not be treated the same way as aggravated homicides. What concrete actions were being taken by the State to ease access to justice for vulnerable persons, particularly for those of indigenous background?
An Expert raised the issue of legislation on national and international adoptions and also asked what measures the State party was taking to end the existing discriminatory provision on children born out of wedlock. What strategies were being used to discourage child labour, such as sanctions or incentives aimed at employers or parents who illegally employed children?
Responses by the Delegation
Improving prison conditions was a priority for the administration. Major reforms were started in 2005 under the new President that included adoption of a humanitarian emergency law. In 2010, another declaration was adopted to promote the penitentiary report. Uruguay was on the path to solving the priority issue of overcrowding, which was expected to be accomplished by 2015. Transparent management was paramount – the system had to be opened to international and civil society scrutiny, and a number of international rapporteurs had already visited the country’s prisons. Prisons had to be taken out of police authority. Providing the most recent statistics, a delegate said that as of September 2013 there were 9,788 prisoners in Uruguay, of whom around 3,500 had been convicted.
A new curriculum for training for police and penitentiary officers had been developed, particularly on the issue of corruption and excessive use of force. A number of different courses had already been in place, prepared and conducted with the help of Argentina, United Nations Development Programme and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The national police school had incorporated international human rights training in their curriculum. All the training programs were constantly monitored and fine-tuned.
An important program was underway, in cooperation with the European Union, focusing on changing mind-sets among prison and judicial staff regarding prohibition of torture.
Conditions of women prisoners were being improved in addition with the Bangkok Rules. A number of guides and handbooks had been published in relations to female prisoners and prisoners living with HIV/AIDS.
The Parliamentary Commissioner for conditions in prisons was an independent ombudsman body and not a Government organ, and was not subjected to any political mandate or interference by the Government.
The issue of deprivation of liberty had traditionally been put on the back burner, which had led to a high number of persons in prisons, leading to an emergency situation. More had been invested in improving conditions in prisons in recent years than ever before, but there had been a yearly increase of six to seven per cent in prison population.
In a report in December 2012, the Government had explained what improvements had been made in improving detention conditions for juvenile prisoners, but the number of child and adolescent prisoners was growing. The Institute for Children and Adolescents was monitoring the situation in penitentiaries and making recommendations. A grassroots approach was being applied in the regard of reforming the entire juvenile justice system, and detention was described as a measure of the last resort.
One mechanism for the prevention of torture – a national observatory had stopped its work in 2012, after it had been established to be ineffective. Non-governmental organizations were allowed access to the prisons.
A delegate explained that there were provisions for creation of interdisciplinary teams in family courts to deal with domestic violence. Five mediation centres had been established in the country, and five more were planned across the country. In 2012, there were over 23,000 reports of domestic violence, of which 16,000 were brought to court, which demonstrated that the profile of domestic violence had been raised.
The Equal Marriage Act had established 16 as the age of marriage for both boys and girls. There had been appeals from international bodies for years to raise the minimum age for marriage from 12 and 14 for girls and boys, respectively, and raising the age to 16 for both sexes had been meant to eliminate gender discrimination. The Government was not going to bring the age of criminal responsibility down from 18 to 16.
In October 2011, Uruguay adopted a law which had made the Expiry Law on 1986 ineffective. The crimes committed under the military dictatorship were thus to be considered as crimes against humanity. The Supreme Court had subsequently established articles two and three of the law to be unconstitutional. There were differences in opinion on that matter between the executive and the Supreme Court, which was why debates were still continuing. The legal description of forced disappearances as crimes or as aggravated homicides was another matter and not related to the issue of statute of limitations.
Many Uruguayan citizens had disappeared in Argentina during the dictatorship. The Uruguayans who had disappeared in Argentina were now included on the list of 178 recognized disappeared persons, while 40 additional cases were being considered for inclusion on that list. The remains of some of the disappeared persons had been found in Argentina, Chile and Bolivia.
Regarding the access to justice of people of African and indigenous descent, the Brasilia Rules were applicable to all courts. That population was not facing any particular obstacles in accessing justice, but poverty remained a major obstacle in that regard.
The new Law on Adoption had introduced several main new changes. Deterrent measures had been put in place to encourage families to keep children rather than give them up for adoption. When a newborn baby did not have a family, efforts were focused on placing the child with its extended biological family or a family chosen from the registry of families willing to adopt.
There were no recorded cases of slavery or enforced labour of children. A branch of the Government dealt with children living and working in the streets, who were a different case. If it was established that families were willingly sending their children to beg in the streets, children allowances were abolished.
Uruguay’s policy on refugees was in line with international protocols. All refugees were receiving ID cards, which were the same as ID cards of Uruguayan citizens.
RICARDO GONZALEZ, General Director for Political Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, thanked the Committee Members for a constructive and positive exchange of views. The inputs provided were extremely valuable to the Government, as all three branches of the Government were ready and willing to improve conditions in various areas of human rights in the country. There had not been enough time to go into details on all matters, but the delegation remained at the disposal of the Committee to discuss any issues in further detail.
NIGEL RODLEY, Chairperson of the Committee, recalled that in the early days of the Committee a lot of its work had regrettably come from Uruguay, including cases of torture and disappearances. The country had come a long way since then. It was disconcerting that there were still concerns about impunity, and it had come as a shock that some judges in Uruguay believed good judicial conduct included calculating the period of prescription. The State party was encouraged to do what it could to overcome those obstacles, deal with the impunity and provide justice and reparations to the families of victims.
The Chairperson expressed his conviction that the Government was committed to the ending the problem of prison overcrowding, and said that the numbers of people in pre-trial and preventive detention were exorbitant. He commended Uruguay’s openness when it came to giving access to its prisons and having conditions in them scrutinized. The Committee welcomed the planned reform of the Criminal Code, and praised Uruguay for being the first State party to accept the new optional procedure on preparation of reports.
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