MONTEVIDEO — Uruguayan President Jose Mujica on Monday announced he would reopen some 80 investigations into crimes committed during the country's 1973-1985 military dictatorship, his office said.
Mujica was fulfilling "an ethical duty" to probe the abuses, presidential secretary Alberto Breccia told reporters, alluding to an order by the Inter-American Human Rights Court earlier this year to investigate and punish forced disappearances.
The president, an ex-guerrilla leader who battled Uruguay's military dictatorship, will sign a decree authorizing the probes by the end of the week, said Breccia.
The move also comes months after failed efforts to overturn an amnesty for military officers who are accused of crimes during the dictatorship.
The original amnesty measure, which ordered judges to consult the executive on which rights violation cases could be heard, was approved in December 1986.
For almost two decades, successive Uruguay government rejected investigation requests, until 2005 when then-president Tabare Vazquez gave the green light for the first trials.
With the aim of confronting the truth about forced disappearances and the practice of kidnapping infants from dissidents and putting them up for adoption, Breccia said the government aims to complete a genetic database.
"A significant number of families of victims of enforced disappearances have not been contacted to obtain a sample of genetic material, which can be compared to other findings" Breccia said, noting that the government was seeking medical records of armed forces members during that period.
Ignacio Errandonea, a member of the Association of Mothers and Relatives of Missing Abducted People, said the group welcomed the news.
"The Uruguayan state's duty to investigate the fate of the abducted and missing, is still there, and so far, has not been addressed," Errandonea said.
A presidential peace commission established in 2000 found that 38 people were abducted, and either were executed or died as a result of torture during a military dictatorship between 1973 and 1985.
Many Uruguayan citizens were detained and executed in Argentina, and others were detained in Chile, Paraguay, Brazil, Colombia and Bolivia during that period, it found.
Uruguay's military often worked with the militaries of neighboring nations, putting into effect a secret plan called "Operation Condor" to eliminate leftist political opponents.
Earlier this year, former Argentine general Eduardo Cabanillas was sentenced to life in prison for running a notorious detention center linked to the shadowy "Operation Condor."
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