Uruguay: children subjected to torture and ill-treatment in detention

Children in Uruguay are victims of torture and other ill-treatment when detained, especially in the context of the juvenile justice system and in protection centres, in prison with their mothers, or in mental health centres. Regressive changes in the legislation towards a more punitive system have weakened the rights of children accused of criminal offences and led to their increased detention. Servicio Paz y Justicia Uruguay (SERPAJ), the Comité de los Derechos del Niño de Uruguay, and the OMCT formulate specific recommendations to improve Uruguay’s compliance with the United Nations Convention against Torture ahead of the country’s review by the UN Committee against Torture in May 2022.

Since the last review of Uruguay by the Committee against Torture, regressive changes in the legislation have expanded the detention of children. In detention, beatings, isolation and threats against children and adolescents deprived of their liberty have increased, in particular during the Covid-19 pandemic. The daily length of detention can be up to 21-23 hours per day, while socio-educative measures are increasingly limited. Some officials who have been convicted of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or are under investigation still work in detention centres for children. The new Law of Urgent Consideration, adopted in 2020, integrates strong regressive dispositions that directly affect children accused of committing a criminal offence: increasing minimum and maximum sentences, which doubled from 5 to 10 years of deprivation of liberty; restricting the use of semi-liberty; maintaining of criminal records for adolescents, among others.

Children detained in other settings than the justice system are also subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Acute mental health care centres are characterised by confinement, isolation, control, and punishment of children and prolonged hospitalisation beyond discharge dates, sometimes for several years. In the short-term protection centres, children are exposed to ill-treatment and abuse, lack of therapeutic care, prolonged internment in centres designed for temporary care, and must live in inadequate infrastructures with a lack of staff.

Read the joint report here (Spanish).

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