Case Nos. 1744, 1766, 1771, 1783 and 1793 (Uruguay)

Case 1744. June 29, 1973, reporting the death in prison, in an army barracks, of Mr. Luis Batalla, a trade union leader, age 32 years, and a militant of the so-called "Frente Amplio".

In a note dated February 15, 1973, the Government provided information on this case that had been requested by the CIDH in a note dated August 22, 1972.

The Commission examined case 1744 at its thirty-first session (April 1973) together with the information provided by the Government of Uruguay and decided to declare this case inadmissible, in accordance with Article 9 (bis) d of its Statute and Article 54 of its Rules of Procedure, without prejudice to requesting the Uruguay an Government to provide information on the result of the judicial action by the competent national authorities which at that time, were pending. This decision was communicated to the Government of Uruguay on June 11, 1973.

However, at the thirty-first session (October 1973), in view of new information presented by the complainants, the Commission decided to reopen its examination of the matter and to repeat to the Government concerned its request for the pertinent information. To this end, a note was sent on December 12, 1973. This request was again repeated on June 3, 1974, in accordance with the decision taken at the thirty-second session (April of that year).

The Government of Uruguay, through its Mission to the OAS, in a note dated September 9, 1974 (No. 340/74), replied to the above-mentioned request. The pertinent parts of that reply are transcribed below:

"The Military Investigating Judge of the Third Ward, Colonel Dr. Federico Silva. Ledesma, under whose Jurisdiction this case falls, in accordance with the legislation in force, has ordered various steps, including a hearing of the prosecutors, that are in present underway, among which mention must be made of the deposition of witnesses and medical reports and expertise for the purpose of clarifying and making effective, in accordance with the law, the responsibilities to which the public servants acting in this case may at any time have become liable.

"Also, it should be pointed out that the time involved by the follow-up of the measures ordered by the competent judicial authority and by the processing of the respective dossier, must be taken into account, bearing in mind the caseload of the Military Courts as a result of the subversive activity with which, as is well known, the Republic has been and is confronted."

The Commission continued its examination of Case 1744 at its thirty-fourth session (October 1974), together with the information provided by the Government of Uruguay, and decided to transmit the pertinent parts of that information to the complainants and to postpone its examination of the merits of the case. To that end, it wrote to the complainants on November 19, 1974.

Case 1766, July 14 and 15, 1973, reporting the arbitrary arrest of General Liber Seregni, the establishment of stringent press censorship, and suppression of constitutional rights and public liberties in that country.

In a cablegram dated July 19, 1973, the Commission requested the Government of Uruguay to provide pertinent information, in accordance with Articles 42 and 44 of its Rules of Procedure, with respect to the arrest of General Liber Seregni. This request for information was repeated on December 12, 1973, and on June 3, 1974, in implementation of the decisions taken at the thirty-first and thirty-second sessions (October 1973 and April 1974, respectively).

The Government of Uruguay, through its Mission to the OAS, in a note dated September 9, 1974, supplied full information on the case, the pertinent parts of which are transcribed below:

  1. Arrest and state of health of Mr. Liber Seregni.
  2. Withholding of medical care - by Decree of the President of the Republic - to persons arrested who are designated by the above-mentioned communications as "political prisoners."
  3. Arrest of Mr. Rodney Arismendi.
  1. Status and state of health of Mr. Liber Seregni

(Former General, retired)

  1. Judicial Proceedings
  1. Mr. Liber Seregni was arrested by an order of the Executive Branch pursuant to the emergency security measures (Constitution of the Republic, Article 168, paragraph 17) in July 1973.
  2. In December 1973, he was brought before the Military Judge of the Third Ward, Colonel Dr. Federico Silva Ledesma, who, on February 11, 1974, after a hearing of the prosecutor, ordered that he be charged with the following offenses: "Concealment of an offense against the Constitution - conspiracy followed by preparatory acts" (Articles 132.6; 137 and 197 of the Ordinary Penal Code). "Public Instigation to Commit a Crime" (Article 147 of the Ordinary Penal Code).
  3. At present the case is being dealt with by the above-mentioned court and Mr. Liber Seregni is assisted by his attorneys, Dr. Carlos Martínez Moreno, José Arlas and José Korseniak.
  4. In view of his status as a former general, Mr. Seregni has been detained in a military establishment instead of in a prison and enjoys preferential treatment, occupying the accommodation of a senior officer, where he receives visits from his relatives and his defending attorneys.
  5. Mr. Seregni is in perfect state of health and the statement contained in the letter dated May 22, 1974, that his health had allegedly been "seriously affected" is completely wrong.

It should be pointed out in this regard that both the relatives and the defending attorneys of Mr. Seregni are in constant contact with the judge involved, Dr. Federico Silva Ledesma, to whom they have never made complaints about the health of the defendant.

Furthermore, Mr. Seregni receives medical care which is provided at all times by the medical and health services of the military unit in which he is detained.

  1. Disciplinary proceedings
    1. As a retired general, Mr. Liter Seregni was brought before a Special Court of Honor of the Army, which unanimously decided that this General "was covered by paragraph D of Article 108 of the Rules of Procedure of Courts of Honor of the Armed Forces approved by Decree No. 24891 of May 20, 1969, and its amendments and additions thereto "Demotion by reason of an extremely serious offense:.
    2. On April 23, 1974, the Executive Branch, by Resolution No. 47,906, approved the decision of the Special Court of Honor of the Army and, on the basis of the pertinent provisions of the Organic Military Law, cashiered him and deprived him of the use of the title and of the uniform.
  1. Withholding of medical care from persons arrested, described in communications being replied to as Political prisoners
  2. There is no provision depriving any class of prisoners of medical care. On the contrary, this type of care is completely guaranteed by the competent services of the State, both in the various instances of the judicial proceedings and of imprisonment, and in the orbit of the Executive Branch, through the application of emergency security measures, including of course and obviously, the specific case mentioned, which must be referring to persons arrested for offenses against the fatherland (Criminal Code. Book II, Title I, Chapter I).

    Any affirmation to the contrary is therefore inexact and completely false.

    It should also be pointed out that, in the instant case, because of the gross character of the lie, there is obviously a deliberate attempt to mislead world opinion as part of the tendentious campaign mounted against my country in international agencies, using, as a supporting element, a malicious and equivocal interpretation of the Decree of the Executive Branch No. D.375/974 of May 14, 1974, which deprived "military and civil personnel whether serving or retired, and/or their relatives, who have been tried for antinational activities of the title of ´┐Żassociate´┐Ż of the military health services."

    The above-mentioned personnel cease to be entitled to receive medical care from the military health services for which they contribute a monthly quota, in the above-mentioned case and as government officials. As prisoners, as am accused persons, as person convicted, their medical care is provided by the competent medical services of the State, according to the circumstances of the case. Once they are released, they may attend any medical service except the military health service from which they are excluded.

  3. Arrest of Mr. Rodney Arismendi
    1. Mr. Ribaldo Rodney Arismendi Carrasco Mattos was arrested by police agents while conducting proceedings connected with subversive activity on May 8, 1974, in Apartment 102 of the property located at Miguel Barreiro No. 3318, in Montevideo.

      Mr. Arismendi was carrying an Identity Card No. 182,078, bearing the name of Octavio Olivera Burgos, Photographic Record No. 2,380,602, dated 19/2/968, Fingerprints V-2443-I-4442, initials of the OAA official, the lower part of which reads: born in Rivera 21/3/914 and signed by authorization "Alberto C. Wrigman" and dated 18/2/68-19/2/78. The photograph is that of a person with abundant hair, which proved to be a wig, and was found in a suitcase belonging to him, and a bushy mustache which he had at the time of his arrest.

      Interrogated by the police authorities involved, Mr. Arismendi admitted that he was using and was a party to the manufacture of false identity card, which was taken from him, and he is detained under the Emergency Security Measures (Constitution of the Republic, Article 168, Paragraph 17) at the disposal of the Executive Branch.
    2. On May 17, 1974, he was brought before the Military Investigating Judge of the Second Ward, Colonel Ormesindo Rodríguez Soto, who initiated the pre-summary proceedings, charging him with "complicity in the falsification of a public document" (Criminal Code Article 237).
    3. At the present, he is in the custody of the Military Investigating Judge of the Third Ward, Colonel Dr. Federico Silva Ledesma, who claimed jurisdiction because of the alleged connection of Mr. Arismendi with subversive activity.

      The above-mentioned magistrate is in charge of the pre-summary proceedings and is accusing Mr. Arismendi, in addition to complicity in the falsification of a public document, with the offense of "aiding a subversive association" (Military Criminal Code - Article 60 (VI)."

For their part, the complainants, in a letter dated July 18, 1974, received by the CIDH on 7 August, supplemented the report with information that the CIDH decided to transmit to the Uruguay Government so that, if that Government considered it appropriate, it would transmit to the Commission any other information additional to that supplied on September 9, 1974. Accordingly, in a note dated September 25, 1974, it transmitted to the above-mentioned Government the pertinent parts of the additional information provided by the complainants. A copy of this note was sent to the Mission of Uruguay to the OAS on September 27.

With this information to hand, the Commission continued its examination of case 1766 at its thirty-fourth session (October 1974) and appointed Dr. Gabino Fraga a rapporteur of the case.

In accordance with the recommendation of the rapporteur, the Commission decided to send a note to the Government of Uruguay, recommending that, if the information submitted to the CIDH were correct, it should endeavor to correct the conditions in which the former General, Liber Seregni, was allegedly detained, without prejudice to the security measures required by the normal conduct of the trial of that person, so that the right embodied in Article 25 of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man could be respected.

In implementation of that decision, the Commission sent a note to the Government of Uruguay on December 18, 1974.

Case 1771. July 30, 1973, reporting the arbitrary arrest of Mr. Juan Pablo Terra, a senator and President of the Christian Democratic Party, and of the trade union leader, José Luis Cogorno.

In a cablegram dated July 31, 1973, the Commission requested the Government of Uruguay to provide the pertinent information, in accordance with Articles 42 and 44 of its Rules of Procedure.

At the thirty-first session (October 1973), bearing in mind the fact that the period of 180 days, established in Article 51 of the Rules of Procedure during which the Government of Uruguay might supply the pertinent information, was still running, the Commission decided to postpone its examination of the case.

The Commission continued its examination of Case 1771 at its thirty-second session (April 1974) and appointed Dr. Gabino Fraga rapporteur so that he could make a report, including recommendations, bearing in mind the act that the Government of Uruguay had not replied to the request for information dated July 31, 1973, and that the period of 180 days established in Article 51 of the Rules of Procedure had already expired.

The rapporteur presented a report (doc.18-32) in accordance with whose recommendation the Commission decided, at the same session, to file the case without prejudice to reopening the examination of it, in view of the fact that the complainant had not provided any evidence proving that the arrest of the persons mentioned in the complaint had taken place in violation of human rights, in accordance with Article 39 d of the Rules of Procedure.

Case 1783, October 2, 1973, reporting the arrest, torture and death of an Uruguayan student, Mr. Hugo Leonardo de los Santos Mendoza, which had allegedly occurred in a military barracks in Uruguay.

In a note dated December 12, 1973, the Commission requested the Government of Uruguay to provide the pertinent information, in accordance with Articles 42 and 44 of the Rules of Procedure.

At the thirty-second session (April 1974) the following decisions were taken: to send a note to the Government of Uruguay repeating the request for information of December 12, 1973 and requesting the complainant agency to supplement the report by sending a copy of the petition filed by the relatives of the victim with the Judge of the Department of de Rocha, who has jurisdiction over the case.

In implementation of these decisions, the Commission sent a note to the Government of Uruguay on June 3, 1974, and a letter to the complainants on April 24, 1974.

The Government of Uruguay, in a note dated September 9, 1973 (No. 339/74) replied to the request. The pertinent parts of this reply are transcribed below:

  1. "1. The above-mentioned person had been a member of the subversive organization calling itself the "Tupamaro Movement of National Liberation" since 1971, using the alias of "Lucia", and taking part in the distribution of leaflets, painting signs, tracking members of the Armed Forces, surveys, and offenses of various kinds. Because of his ability for direct action, he became a member of the armed action groups, receiving various weapons stolen from the Naval Training Center.

    Subsequently, he was given command of a "Military Group" involved in considerable military activity, a part of which was a detachment under the command of a member of the Argentine subversive organization known as the Revolutionary Army of the People (ERP).

    Although he was a member of the middle-level leadership of the Students' Army, together with Sarandí Píriz Behenan (Cholo), Silva Motta (Nora) Milton Ramírez (Pedro)(Ismael) and a person called Edison who has not been identified, he was going to be promoted, because of his activities to the leadership of the Army.
  2. On September 1, 1973, he was arrested on the street by members of the Joint Forces and taken to a military unit in order to bring him before the corresponding investigating judge because of his participation in the subversive activities mentioned in item 1 above.
  3. On the morning of September 3, during a routine inspection, he was found to be suffering from a pulmonary disorder and, although treated by the medical service of the unit, he died.
  4. The Military Investigating Judge of the Fourth Ward, Captain de Navío Oscar Pio Llorens, took over the case and ordered the appropriate forensic examinations, which were carried out as ordered.

    As a result of the autopsy, which was made by Dr. Mautone, the cause of death was found to be "acute pulmonary edema".
  5. When the body of Hugo Leonardo de los Santos Mendoza was delivered to his relatives living in the Department of Rocha, the Departmental Judge of that district, because of reports from the relatives of the deceased to the effect that the body bore visible signs of mistreatment, took Jurisdiction of the case and ordered a new autopsy to be made by a group of physicians appointed for that purpose whose conclusions differed with the findings of the above-mentioned medico-legal examination.
  6. In view of the steps ordered by the Judge of the Department of Rocha, the Military Investigating Judge of the Fourth Ward, which had taken Jurisdiction in the first instance, claimed Jurisdiction before the Supreme Court of Justice.
  7. These jurisdictional claims were settled by the Supreme Court of Justice on August 14, 1974, by decision No. 2074, giving Jurisdiction to the Investigating Judge of the First Ward of Montevideo.
  8. Consequently, it is the responsibility of the above-mentioned court, in the last analysis, in accordance with the pertinent legal provisions, to take such steps as it deems appropriate with respect to the causes of the death of Hugo Leonardo de los Santos."

In accordance with its Rules of Procedure, the Commission transmitted to the complainants the pertinent parts of the information provided by the Government of Uruguay in its letter dated September 24, 1974.

The Commission examined Case 1783 at its thirty-fourth session (October 1974) and decided to postpone a decision on the merits of the case and to wait for the complainants, if they so desired, to make such comments as they deemed appropriate on the information provided by the Government of Uruguay.

Case 1793, April 11, 1973, reporting tortures and harassment of various persons detained by military authorities in Uruguay. The complain includes a list of the persons arrested and imprisoned in the military hospital in Montevideo that had allegedly been victims of such tortures and mistreatment.

In a note dated December 12, 1973, the Commission asked the Government of Uruguay to provide the pertinent information, in accordance with Articles 42 and 44 of the Rules of Procedure.

At its thirty-second session (April 1974) the Commission examined this complaint, noting that the Uruguayan Government had not replied to its request for information. In view of the foregoing and on the bases of new information about the case, the Commission decided to appoint Dr. Genaro R. Carrió rapporteur and instructed him to prepare a report including such recommendations as he deemed appropriate.

In accordance with the report of the rapporteur, the Commission decided to repeat to the Government of Uruguay the request that it send the pertinent information and to transmit to that Government the pertinent parts of the new information mentioned above, including precise information about the cause or causes that led to the imprisonment in the military hospital of Montevideo of the persons mentioned in that additions information, whether with respect to those persons physical compulsion had been proved and whether, in such cases, the appropriate investigations had been opened; and extended the time limit established in Article 51 of the Rules of Procedure for 60 days to enable that Government to provide this information.

In implementation of this decision, the CIDH wrote to the Government of Uruguay on June 3, 1974. In a letter dated 5 June, the complainant was informed of the processing of the case.

The Government of Uruguay, in a note dated September 9, 1974, replied, providing the following information (the pertinent parts are transcribed):

  1. On April 15, 1972, in accordance with Article 85, paragraph 7 of the Constitution of the Republic, and in view of the critical increase in subversive activity in the country, the General Assembly decreed a state of internal war, which was made effective, in accordance with Article 168, paragraph 16 of the Constitution of the Republic, by the Decree of the Executive Branch No. 277/972 of the same date "for the sole purpose of authorizing the necessary measures for suppressing the action of individuals or groups that by any means conspire against the fatherland, as provided for in Article 253 of the Constitution".
  2. On June 30, 1972, the General Assembly extended the state of internal war, which extension was made effective by Decree of the Executive Branch No. 463/972 of the same date.

    The State of internal war ceased on July 14, 1972, at which date the State Security Law entered into force.
  3. The list of persons detained in the Central Hospital of the Armed Forces, which is attached to the communication I am replying to and which was sent to the Senate of the Republic by the Ministry of National Defense, covers the above-mentioned period of state of internal war and constitutes a sad but logical aftermath of the war, since it demonstrates the actual medical and health care the State provides persons arrested.

    It should be pointed out that this list does not contain the names of the casualties or of wounded or hospitalized members of the Armed Forces that were, however, numerous.
  4. With such background and within the above-mentioned context, an examination must be made of the list of the above-mentioned prisoners which, in any case, does not make it possible to state that the cause of these hospital admissions was wounds caused by "mistreatment and torture"

The actual causes for such hospital admissions are the activities and confrontations the subversive and seditious elements had with the Armed Forces of the Republic during the state of internal war, during the course of which the sedition not only clearly demonstrated its complete disregard for the most elementary notions of the rights of the human person but also its lack of the most elementary vestiges of humanitarian feelings."

The Commission continued its examination of the case at its thirty-fourth session (October 1974) and decided: To again request the Government of Uruguay to provide more specific data on the matter mentioned in point 4 of its note of September 9, since, in the light of the reports and background data on the matter, the information supplied was not satisfactory.

In implementation of this decision, the Commission wrote to the above mentioned Government on December 18, 1974, and informed the complainant of this decision on November 19, 1974.