Press Release

IACHR Concerned about Failure to Investigate Threats against Justice Operators Active in Cases of Serious Human Rights Violations during Uruguayan Dictatorship

February 27, 2019

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its concern about the failure to investigate death threats issued by a group that calls itself Comando Barneix against authorities, justice operators and human rights defenders active in connection with court cases involving serious human rights violations during the Uruguayan dictatorship. The Commission urges the State to ensure diligent investigations that reflect the applicable standards.

On February 13, 2019—two years after the threats were issued—a group that comprised threatened persons and the Luz Ibarburu Observatory publicly denounced, among other issues, a lack of progress in the investigation concerning the people responsible for those threats, as well as the Uruguayan Presidency’s failure to respond to their requests for information about this case.

In a press release issued on March 1, 2017, the Commission condemned threats targeting authorities, justice operators and human rights defenders who were in any way active in cases involving human rights violations during the dictatorship. Threats mentioned the suicide of General Pedro Barneix, who allegedly killed himself as police arrived to arrest him for the alleged politically motivated murder of Aldo Perrini in 1974. Threats also said that any further suicides of military officers or prosecutions for crimes committed during the dictatorship would be countered with three murders of people mentioned on a list. The list included Uruguay’s current Defense minister, current and past public prosecutors, lawyers, people with ties to the Luz Ibarburu Observatory and an Italian researcher who works on this issue.

The Commission has highlighted the special seriousness of those threats, considering that they could increase the risk of impunity in cases linked to human rights violations in Uruguay, as well as undermine the Uruguayan people’s confidence in State institutions in charge of administering justice. In this context, the IACHR urges the State to conduct timely, thorough and diligent investigations of those threats and to establish and punish their perpetrators and masterminds. Further, the IACHR calls on the State to immediately take any actions necessary to protect the lives and integrity of the group of threatened people on the list.

“The State has an obligation to investigate and punish the serious human rights violations that happened during the Uruguayan dictatorship. The lack of diligent investigations violates the rights to truth, justice and reparation,” said Commissioner Antonia Urrejola, IACHR Rapporteur for Uruguay, who also leads the Commission’s Unit on Memory, Truth, and Justice. “The absence of such investigations undermines confidence in justice institutions,” Commissioner Urrejola stressed.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 045/19