Thursday, July 15, 2021

Controversial reappointment to the Uruguayan Supreme Court

On March 13, 2021, the Uruguayan Senate consented to the 5 -ear reappointment of retired Colonel Eduardo Aranco Gil as "conjuez militar" (military associate justice) to the Supreme Court.  The consent was polemical because the Frente Amplio (Broad Front), the left-wing party that ruled Uruguay for 15 years, until 2020, when Luis Lacalle Pou of the center-right Partido Nacional (National Party) was sworn in, opposed his reappointment, despite the fact that this was his third term on the Court and that he was originally proposed and supported by the Frente Amplio.

The Uruguayan Supreme Court is comprised of five judges and two military associate justices, who together comprise the Court when it is required to deal with cases involving military justice, such as the final appeal in a case or a case involving a conflict of jurisdiction between it and the judicial branch.  These cases are few and far between and in the past ten years only four have arisen.  Since military justice does not form part of the Judiciary, it does not provide the basic guarantees of due process for the simple reason that the independence of its judges is not guaranteed.  When the Supreme Court receives a case challenging a decision of military judges then the only stage that can be called "judicial" begins.  This Court deals with events during war and also "military crimes" such as disobedience and desertion.

His reappointment became polemical because in a recent interview Mr. Aranco Gil stated that in Uruguay there is "no legal certainty" for members of the military who have been tried for violations of human rights during the dictatorship and that "all" of them "were prosecuted badly."  The prosecution of the human rights violations committed during the dictatorship (1973-1985) has been part of the public agenda since the Naval Club pact was signed in 1984.  In short, his criticism centers on the fact that the courts are still trying members of the military for crimes that were committed 40 or 50 years ago and he argues that this should be stopped and statutes of limitation applied.  Aranco Gil has a doctorate in law and acknowledges that statutes of limitation would be declared unconstitutional in Uruguay, and consequently he is calling for a law to exempt from prosecution those members of the military who have been living peacefully in Uruguayan society since 1985, on the basis that they do not pose a danger to society today.

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