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Despite macroeconomic and human development indicators among the highest in the region, Uruguay counts, paradoxically, the highest rate of people deprived of liberty in the region. In 2017, there were for instance 11 103 persons in detention. In 2015 and 2016, the country also registered its highest level of violent deaths in detention. Although Uruguay ratified the UN Convention against Torture in 1986, as well as other international human rights instruments.
Despite aligning its legislation with international standards, the past years have seen a important trend towards the regression of the national legislation in terms of human rights. This trend has particularly increased recently, following the Presidential election in November 2019 and the following adoption of the Urgent Consideration Law, placing particular emphasis on public security issues. This new law represents an important legislative regression notably in terms of criminal justice, including increases in penalties and reduction of extra-judicial processes.
These trends also particularly affect the situation of children deprived of liberty, on which OMCT's work in Uruguay focuses, in the framework of its Child Protection against Torture Programme, together with its network members SERPAJ, and IELSUR, documenting acts of torture and other forms of ill-treatment against children. While the Children's Code had already been undermined by national laws progressively giving precedence to deprivation of liberty of children, the new Urgent Consideration Law goes further, prescribing for instance an increase in minimum custodial sentences for children, application of deprivation of liberty sentences for offenses previously dealt with by alternatives to detention, or the maintenance of criminal records for adolescents, among others.