Uruguayan President Mujica speaks during news conference after talks with German Chancellor Merkel in Berlin, Picture: Reuters
Uruguay's parliament voted early Thursday to overturn a 1986 amnesty law that had prevented the punishment of those who committed human rights violations during the 1973-1985 dictatorship.
Lawmakers in the Chamber of Deputies approved the latest measure after it was passed by the Senate on Tuesday. It will now go to President Jose Mujica, a one-time guerrilla who fought the dictatorship, for final approval.
The latest bill passed after 12 hours of intense debate. Previous efforts to overturn the amnesty law failed earlier this year.
The bill "returns the full exercise of punitive powers to the state for crimes committed in the application of state terrorism," until March 1, 1985, the end of the 12-year period of military rule.
It also refers to such violations as "crimes against humanity under international treaties" and revokes any statute of limitations.
Supporters said the new law would also entail compliance with a ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which has ordered Uruguay to investigate alleged crimes committed during the dictatorship era.
Opponents slammed the new measure, however, saying it went against referendums held in 1989 and in 2009 which failed to garner enough votes to overturn the amnesty law.
The amnesty law of 1986 requires judges to consult the executive before trying cases related to alleged crimes committed during the dictatorship.
For almost two decades, successive Uruguay governments rejected such investigation requests, until then-president Tabare Vazquez gave the green light in 2005 for the first trials.
A presidential peace commission established in 2000 found that 38 people were abducted and either executed or tortured to death during the period of military dictatorship.
Uruguay's military often worked with the militaries of neighbouring nations, putting into effect a secret plan called "Operation Condor" to eliminate leftist political opponents.
Several Latin American countries have prosecuted former military officers and even heads of states for crimes committed from the 1960s to the 1980s, when rightwing dictatorships battled leftist opponents across the continent.
On Wednesday Brazil's Senate agreed to set up a Truth Commission to investigate human rights violations during its own 1964-1985 military dictatorship. -AFP