November 8, 2010
MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (AP) — A general was convicted of murder and sent to prison Monday, becoming the first active member of Uruguay’s military to be jailed for human rights violations committed during the country’s 1973-85 dictatorship.
Gen. Miguel Dalmao was ordered into preventive detention pending appeal of his conviction in the 1974 death of a communist in military custody, a process that will likely take months. If confirmed, the final sentence could be for up to 30 years.
Also imprisoned was Col. Jose Chialanza, who like Dalmao was convicted of “especially aggravated homicide” in the death of Nibia Sabalsagaray, Supreme Court spokesman Raul Oxandabarat told The Associated Press.
Dalmao, who has repeatedly declared his innocence, commands the Uruguayan army’s 4th Division.
Uruguay’s top army general, Jorge Rosales, said last week that he believes Dalmao is innocent. The army made no immediate comment on Monday’s verdict.
Sabalsagaray was found hanged in her cell shortly after being captured. At the time, Chialanza was a battalion commander and Dalmao was a lieutenant in charge of gathering intelligence on suspected subversives. Both men said she hanged herself.
Both the military and leftist guerrillas were granted amnesty for dictatorship-era crimes as democracy was restored, and the amnesties have been repeatedly upheld in voter referendums.
But in October 2009, Uruguay’s Supreme Court declared them unconstitutional, reasoning that only the courts — not the executive branch — can grant amnesty. Each alleged crime must be considered by the courts on a case-by-case basis, the justices said.
Prosecutor Mirtha Guianze and lawyers for Sabalsagaray’s family presented evidence that they said ruled out suicide. On Monday, Judge Rolando Vomero agreed.
A dozen Uruguayan military figures have been prosecuted for crimes against humanity, but all were committed outside Uruguay, particularly in Argentina, where about 150 Uruguayans disappeared.
Former dictator Juan M. Bordaberry also was convicted for his role in the 1973 coup that ushered in military rule. But all other crimes committed inside Uruguay had been protected by amnesties — until now.
Article link: http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2010/11/08/world/americas/AP-LT-Uruguay-Human-Rights.html?_r=17&ref=world