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TITLE:  URUGUAY HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993                            
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994


Uruguay is a constitutional republic governed by an elected 
President and a bicameral legislature with an independent 
judicial branch.  Its longstanding democratic tradition was 
interrupted by 12 years of military rule from 1973 to 1985.  On 
March 1, 1990, following a free and fair election in November 
1989, power was transferred from one elected civilian president 
to another for the first time since the return to constitutional
government in 1985.  Political parties, the press, labor 
unions, private interest groups, and other nongovernmental 
groups function freely, and political debate is vigorous and 

The small military establishment, consisting of an army, an air 
force, and a navy, is under the supervision of the Ministry of 
Defense.  The military does not participate in domestic 
security matters unless ordered to do so by the civilian 
authorities.  Domestic security and public safety matters are 
under the jurisdiction of the Interior Ministry, which 
administers all the country's police departments.  The police 
were again responsible for physical abuse of detainees in 1993.

A middle income country with a per-capita gross domestic 
product of $3,900 in 1993, Uruguay's economy is heavily 
dependent on agricultural exports and agroindustry.  The 
economy grew by 7.9 percent in 1992 and was projected to grow 
by 4 to 5 percent in 1993.  The economy is a mixture of private 
enterprise and state entities; private property rights are 
respected.  The current administration attempted to carry out a 
program of modernization and reform of the economy in order to 
improve its competitiveness in world markets.  Privatization, a 
key element of the program, was set back when a proposal to 
privatize the telephone company was roundly defeated in a 
referendum in December 1992.  

Uruguayans enjoy a broad range of individual rights and 
liberties.  However, reports of police abuse of detainees 
persist, and few--if any--police have been convicted and 
punished for such abuse.  Prison conditions remain generally 
poor, but some improvements were made in the country's largest 
prison.  Increased attention to the issue has publicized the 
high level of violence against women.  The small Afro-Uruguayan 
community faces social, economic, and cultural impediments to 


Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

No cases of politically motivated killing were reported.

     b.  Disappearance

No known or reported incidents of politically motivated 
abductions or disappearances occurred in 1993.

The 1986 Expiry Law, which was endorsed by a general referendum 
in 1989, blocks investigations into killings, torture, and 
disappearances which occurred during the military regime.  In 
March the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an arm of 
the Organization of American States, found this law 
incompatible with treaty obligations under the American 
Convention on Human Rights.  The Uruguayan Government strongly 
disputed the report, and there is very little will among 
politicians or the general public to reopen this subject.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

The Constitution prohibits brutal treatment of prisoners.  
However, there were reports of physical abuse of detainees by 
police.  Physical abuse is most often alleged in the hours 
immediately following an arrest.  Minors are thought to be 
particularly vulnerable to abuse.

In March, after having confessed to 14 robberies, a detainee 
was taken before a Montevideo judge for processing.  He 
retracted his confession and charged that the police had 
tortured him with an electrical device.  The judge ordered an 
immediate search of the police station, and the device was 
found.  Four policemen were charged with personal injury and 
suspended from their jobs.  The internal investigation was 
still in progress at year's end.

In 1992 the Interior Ministry established an internal section 
responsible for monitoring police conduct.  The judicial and 
parliamentary branches of government also investigate specific 
allegations of abuse.  Nonetheless, human rights monitors 
insist that many cases of abuse go unreported and that police 
are seldom convicted and punished for such abuse.

Conditions in prisons and juvenile detention facilities 
generally remained poor.  Complaints commonly voiced by 
government and independent human rights investigators included 
delapidated buildings and equipment, poor sanitary conditions, 
inadequately staffed and equipped on-site clinics, and a lack 
of training, educational, and recreational opportunities.  A 
shortage of resources and to some extent poor prison 
administration hamper improvement.  One local group that 
monitors prison conditions cited some improvement in the 
country's largest prison but said that conditions in prisons 
outside the capital remain poor.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution requires the police to have a written warrant 
issued by a judge before they can make an arrest.  The only 
exception is when the accused is apprehended during commission 
of a crime.  The Constitution also guarantees the accused the 
right to a judicial determination of the legality of detention 
and requires that the detaining authority explain the legal 
grounds for the detention.  A detainee may be held 
incommunicado by the police for 24 hours before being presented 
to a judge, at which time he or she has the right to counsel.  
If the detainee cannot afford a lawyer, a public defender is 
appointed.  The judicial process must begin within 48 hours; 
failure to comply has led to the release of accused persons.  
If the crime carries a penalty of at least 2 years in prison, 
the accused person is confined during the judge's investigation 
of the charges unless the authorities agree to release the 
person on bail, or until the case is closed.  These 
constitutional provisions are generally respected in practice.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, headed 
by a Supreme Court, which supervises the work of the lower 
courts.  There is a parallel military court system that 
operates under a military justice code.  Two military justices 
sit on the Supreme Court but participate only in cases 
involving the military.  Military justice is applied to 
civilians only during a state of war or insurrection.  The 
independence of the judiciary is well respected in practice.

All criminal trials must open with a public statement of the 
charge by the prosecutor or the complainant.  Trial proceedings 
were formerly based on written arguments, which were not 
normally made public, but the defense attorney had access to 
all documents that formed part of the written record.  Oral 
argument, introduced in 1990 and now increasingly used in the 
Uruguayan system, has resulted in a more open and transparent 
legal process.  Under Uruguayan law, there is no provision 
against self-incrimination, and the defendant may be compelled 
to answer any questions posed by the judge.  All convictions 
may be appealed by the defense attorney or prosecutor to a 
higher court which may acquit the person of the crime, confirm 
the conviction, or reduce or increase the sentence.

Uruguay has no political prisoners and does not punish 
political activity.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 

The Constitution protects the right to privacy.  It states that 
the home, absolutely inviolable at night, may be entered and 
searched only with a judicial warrant during the day.  
Protection for private papers and correspondence is equally 
strong, and a warrant is required for confiscation.  These 
rights and safeguards are generally respected in practice.  In 
August, however, the Minister of Defense resigned after some of 
his subordinates were placed under house arrest for electronic 
eavesdropping without his authorization.  The subordinates were 
purportedly trying to discover who was responsible for a series 
of 1992 bombings, allegedly carried out by a radical faction 
within the armed forces.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and press.  All 
elements of the political spectrum freely express their 
viewpoints in both the print and broadcast media.  Montevideo 
has 8 daily newspapers and 6 important weeklies; there are 
approximately 100 weekly and a few daily newspapers elsewhere.

Montevideo has one government-affiliated and three commercial 
television stations.  There are about 110 radio stations and 20 
television stations in the country.  A 1989 law stipulates that 
expression and communication of thoughts and opinions are 
entirely free, within the limits contained in the Constitution 
and the law, and outlines methods of responding to "inexact or 
aggravating information."  The same law calls for from 3 months 
to 2 years of imprisonment for "knowingly divulging false news 
that causes a grave disturbance to the public peace or a grave 
prejudice to economic interests of the State" or for "insulting 
the nation, the State, or their powers."

In June this law was used to prosecute three reporters for 
slandering the President; they were sentenced to 6 months' 
probation.  In November a retired general was sentenced to 
8 months' probation after a newspaper published his "open 
letter to the President" criticizing cuts in military 
retirement pay.  This law, and its intermittent application, 
serve as notice that there are certain limits on freedom of 
expression and that the limits will be enforced.

The National University is autonomous, and academic freedom is 
generally respected.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law protects freedom of assembly and association.

Formerly banned groups, such as the Tupamaros (a terrorist 
movement active in the 1960's and early 1970's), freely 
organize and express their opinions.  Public marches and 
demonstrations are allowed with permits from the Ministry of 
the Interior and occur without official harassment or 

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Freedom of religion, provided for by the Constitution, is 
respected in practice.  Most Uruguayans who practice a religion 
are Roman Catholic.  Members of other religious groups exercise 
their faiths unhindered, and missionaries are free to 
proselytize.  Uruguayans who profess agnosticism or atheism 
express their views freely.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Internal and foreign travel and emigration are unrestricted.  
Uruguayans who left the country during the military regime and 
wish to return are encouraged to do so.  All of the prominent 
political figures exiled by the military regime have returned.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Uruguayan citizens have the right and ability peacefully to 
change their government.  Uruguay is a multiparty democracy 
with mandatory universal suffrage for those 18 years of age or 
older.  Voting is not restricted by race, sex, religion, or 
economic status.  The Colorado party, the National (Blanco) 
party, the Broad Front coalition, and the New Space coalition 
are the four major political groupings.  Each allows 
ideological divisions within the party, and each such division 
may field its own slate of candidates in general elections.  
The electoral system combines a primary and a general election 
in a double simultaneous vote.  Each party fields different 
lists of candidates; in essence, voters express a preference 
for a party and for a list of candidates rather than for an 
individual candidate.

The winning list of the party that receives the most votes wins 
the presidency and a proportion of seats in the Senate and 
Chamber of Deputies corresponding to the percentage of votes 
that the party as a whole received.  A party therefore may run 
multiple presidential candidates, each with his or her own 
slate of legislative candidates.  National and provincial 
elections are held simultaneously every 5 years.  Blacks and 
women face de facto impediments to participation in politics 
and employment in government (see Section 5).

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

Local human rights groups, some of which could not operate 
openly under military rule, now function freely and without 
restriction.  A prominent local human rights group, Service for 
Peace and Justice (SERPAJ), was legalized in early 1985 after 
operating underground for 2 years during the military regime.  
Another group, the Legal and Social Institute of Uruguay, 
consists of lawyers and social workers who focus on juridical 
aspects of human rights cases.  Both groups began by 
investigating killing, torture, and disappearances that 
occurred during the military regime.  They now investigate and 
report on many other aspects of human rights, including police 
abuse, prison conditions, and rights of women and children.

The Government is open to inquiries from such organizations and 
does not restrict the activities of human rights investigators.

The Government has also fully complied with U.N. Human Rights 
Commission inquiries dating from the military regime period and 
is a strong supporter of, and participant in, human rights 
activities in international forums such as the United Nations 
and the Organization of American States.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

Discrimination based on race, sex, religion, language, or 
social status is prohibited by the Constitution and by law.  A 
law passed in 1989 prohibits discrimination against the 
disabled.  Despite these prohibitions, discrimination based 
upon sex and race exist.


Uruguayan women enjoy equality under the law but face a number 
of forms of discrimination stemming from traditional attitudes 
and practices.  Recent surveys show that the work force remains 
segregated by gender and race.  Women make up about a third of 
the work force but tend to be concentrated in lower paying 
jobs.  They attend the National University in large numbers and 
often pursue professional careers.  About 50 percent of 
Uruguay's judges are women, but women are underrepresented in 
other professions such as engineering or architecture.  Women 
are also found at the highest levels of the Uruguayan private 
or public sectors, but they remain largely marginalized from 
mainstream politics and underrepresented in most important 
government and political party offices.  Conscious of these 
problems, the Government established the National Institute for 
Women to collect data on women's issues and to address these 
issues more effectively.

Uruguayan society is increasingly sensitive to the question of 
violence against women.  Each year, the police process about 
1,700 domestic violence cases (including violence against 
children).  Nongovernmental organizations estimate, however, 
that the actual number of cases is probably 10 times that 
figure.  Rape statistics have increased sharply, possibly 
because victims are more willing to report the crime.  The 
Interior Ministry has a women's division in the police force 
concerned exclusively with crimes against women and minors.  
The Penal Code mandates prison sentences from 3 months to 
3 years for the crime of "private violence."  Many women are 
unable to make and sustain complaints under this law, however, 
especially when they continue to reside with their partners.  
Two private shelters for battered women have been opened in 
Montevideo.  Some private women's rights groups offer 
counseling services, and the Montevideo municipality operates a 
24-hour hot line for victims of domestic violence.


The Government is committed to protecting the rights and 
welfare of children.  There are no patterns of government 
abuse, although there continue to be some reports of police 
abuse of detained minors.  In 1992 approximately 10.5 percent 
of the national budget was designated for preuniversity 
education; another 1.8 percent was allocated to the National 
Institute for Minors, which has responsibility for most other 
programs concerning the welfare of minors.  A local human 
rights group estimates that there are approximately 1,000 
street children in Montevideo.  There are another 100 in 
juvenile institutions.  These institutions offer very little in 
the way of education, rehabilitation, or training.  An 
estimated 60 percent of adult prisoners have formerly passed 
through the juvenile justice system.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Approximately 6 percent of Uruguay's population, or 180,000 
people, belong to the country's black minority.  Blacks are 
underrepresented among elite groups, particularly the 
bureaucratic, political, and academic sectors of society.  One 
report put the number of black university graduates at 65 and 
black professionals at fewer than 50.  They lack the educational
opportunities and social and political connections necessary 
for entry into these groups.  Black leaders say that 75 percent 
of employed black women work as maids.  Most citizens do not 
believe that discrimination against minorities is a problem in 
Uruguay, and the Government has not addressed this issue.

     People with Disabilities

There are approximately 250,000 persons with disabilities in 
Uruguay.  A law covering the rights of the disabled was passed 
in 1989 but had not been implemented by the end of 1993.  The 
law is mostly declarative, i.e., it does not stipulate specific 
remedial measures or sanctions for not complying with these 
measures.  There is legislation requiring that 4 percent of 
public sector jobs be reserved for the disabled.  However, only 
the municipality of Montevideo has made efforts to comply with 
this law.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The Constitution guarantees the right of workers to organize 
freely and encourages the formation of trade unions.  Civil 
servants and employees of state-run enterprises, as well as 
private enterprise workers, may join unions.  An estimated 
17 percent of the work force is unionized.  Labor unions are 
independent of government and political party control.

Uruguayan workers, including some civil servants, have the 
right to strike.  Parliament did not approve proposed 
legislation that would have required workers to vote by secret 
ballot on whether to strike.  The Labor Ministry office which 
assists in mediating collective and individual labor disputes 
is increasingly attempting to stay out of private sector 
negotiations; members of the Parliament's labor commissions 
occasionally mediate labor disputes on an ad hoc basis.

There was significant strike activity in 1993, including one in 
the construction industry which lasted almost 3 months.  The 
Government may legally compel workers to work during a strike 
if their work is considered an essential service.  An essential 
service is defined as one whose interruption "could cause a 
grave prejudice or risk provoking suffering to part or all of 
the society."  While no institutionalized mechanism exists for 
resolving complaints against employers, discrimination by 
employers, including arbitrary dismissals for union activity, 
generally is prohibited.  In 1992 rubber workers' unions and 
the Inter-Union Workers Assembly-National Workers Association 
(PIT-CNT) filed a complaint with the International Labor 
Organization (ILO) alleging that the Government had not 
investigated the dismissal of trade union officials following a 
strike.  In May 1993, after examining the complaint and the 
Government's response, the ILO's Committee on Freedom of 
Association concluded that the case did not merit further 
consideration.  Its conclusion noted Uruguay's lack of 
statutory provisions in this area and said that, while the 
current system of protection against antiunion practices "does 
not infringe ILO Convention No. 98," it "could be improved in 
so far as accelerating the procedure."

There are no restrictions on a union's right to affiliate with 
international trade union bodies.  The largest trade union 
confederation, the PIT-CNT, is by choice not officially 
affiliated with any of the three world federations.  Many 
individual unions are affiliated with international trade 

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Collective bargaining ceased during military rule.  From the 
return of civilian rule until March 1992, industrial contracts 
were negotiated on a sector-wide rather than a plant-by-plant 
basis, under the auspices of a salary council, a tripartite 
organization composed of representatives from government, 
labor, and management.  The government representatives played 
an active role in mediating these negotiations in some sectors; 
in others, they functioned more as observers.  Since March 
1992, contracts may be negotiated on a plant-wide or a 
sector-wide basis, with or without government mediation, as the 
parties wish.  Union leaders believe that the government 
presence ensures contracts will be fulfilled and generally 
object to reducing it in contract negotiations.

Workers employed in Uruguay's five special export zones are 
fully covered by all labor legislation.  There are no unions in 
any of these zones, but there are as yet relatively few workers 
in traditionally organizable occupations.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced or compulsory labor is prohibited by law, and there is 
no evidence of its existence.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Children are protected by a Child Labor Code, violations of 
which are punishable by fines of up to $500.  Children as young 
as 12 may be employed if they have a special government work 
permit.  Children under the age of 18 may not perform 
dangerous, fatiguing, or night work, apart from domestic 
employment.  Salaries and hours for children are controlled 
more strictly than those for adults.  Children over the age of 
16 may sue in court for payment of wages, and children have the 
legal right to dispose of their own income.  Children working 
in the expanding informal sector as street vendors or others 
with no fixed place of work or in the agrarian sector are 
generally less strictly regulated and receive lower pay.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

A legislated minimum monthly wage is in effect in both the 
public and private sectors and appears to be effectively 
enforced.  The minimum wage is adjusted whenever public sector 
wages are adjusted, usually once every 4 months.  The minimum 
wage as of September 1 was $86 (365 pesos).  It functions more 
as an index for calculating wage rates than as a true measure 
of minimum subsistence levels and would not provide a decent 
standard of living for a worker and family.

The standard workweek is 48 hours for a 6-day week.  The Basic 
Labor Law stipulates 48-hour weeks for industrial workers and 
44-hour weeks for industrial office workers and commercial 
personnel, with a 36-hour break each week.  This law is 
generally adhered to and adequately enforced.  Industrial 
workers receive overtime compensation for work in excess of 48 
hours.  Workers are entitled to 20 days of paid vacation after 
a year of employment.

Workers are protected by legislation regulating health and 
safety conditions; it is enforced by the Ministry of Labor and 
Social Security in a generally effective manner.  Some labor 
regulations cover urban, industrial workers more adequately 
than rural and agricultural workers.  

[end of document]


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