Uruguay

Executive Summary

The Oriental Republic of Uruguay is a constitutional republic with a democratically elected president and a bicameral legislature. In November 2019 Luis Lacalle Pou won a five-year presidential term in a free and fair election. No political party won a majority in parliament, but the ruling party formed a coalition to pass legislation. Legislative elections were also held in October 2019.

Under the Ministry of Interior, the National Police maintains internal security, and the National Directorate for Migration is responsible for migration and border enforcement. The armed forces, under the Ministry of National Defense, are responsible for external security and have some domestic responsibilities, including perimeter security for six prisons and border security. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over security forces. Members of the security forces committed some abuses and were brought to justice.

Significant human rights abuses included harsh and potentially life-threatening conditions in some prisons.

The government took steps to investigate and prosecute officials who committed human rights abuses, and there were no reports of impunity. The judiciary continued to investigate human rights violations committed during the 1973-85 military dictatorship, which the law classifies as crimes against humanity.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

The law provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected this right. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combine to promote freedom of expression, including for the press.

Violence and Harassment: The NGO CAInfo reported several cases of journalists subjected to lawsuits and legal threats, sometimes by government officials or associations to discourage them from doing investigative reporting on certain matters. The judicial branch usually dismissed these cases.

Libel/Slander Laws: Defamation is a criminal offense punishable with four months to three years of prison or with a fine. There were no reports of the government using these laws to restrict public discussion. There were some reports of defamation claims filed by public figures against journalists, but the Prosecutor General’s Office usually sought agreements between the parties or dismissed the accusations entirely.

Nongovernmental Impact: In June a well known journalist received a death threat for his investigations on narcotics trafficking. He was provided police protection, and the Ministry of Interior met with the Uruguayan Press Association to discuss the situation.

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

The constitution provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

The constitution provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.

Not applicable.

f. Protection of Refugees

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, or other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status through a refugee commission, which adjudicates asylum claims, provides protection to refugees, and provides them with durable solutions such as access to housing and livelihoods. As of November there were 559 pending asylum claims from Venezuelans in Uruguay, according to UNHCR. In September, UNHCR reported 10 Venezuelan asylum seekers entered from Argentina. The government tested them for COVID-19 and requested UNHCR’s support in providing them with shelter and food while they were under quarantine.

Durable Solutions: The government accepts refugees for resettlement within the framework of a resettlement program implemented jointly with UNHCR. The program involves 28 families from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. In previous years the program increased by an average of three families per year; however, COVID-19 prevented the arrival of new families, and there were no prospects of new arrivals in the near future. The program includes arranged housing and employment solutions for these families before their arrival to the country.

There were also asylum seekers arriving outside these specific programs. They have freedom of movement during the regular asylum application process and receive a provisional identification document until their application process is completed, when they get their permanent document. In addition they are entitled to access the public health and education systems free of charge and to work legally. They have the same rights and liberties as any other legal resident of the country. Once their refugee status is confirmed, they also have access to a family reunification process.

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