Practice Relating to Rule 158. Prosecution of War Crimes
Uruguay’s Basic Information for the Pre-Deployment of Personnel Involved in UN Stabilization Missions (2014), in a section entitled “What is international humanitarian law?”, states:
IMPLEMENTATION OF IHL IN THE AREA OF MISSION
– Act No. 18026 on the “Prevention and punishment of war crimes through the adoption of criminal legislation” has enabled the Uruguayan State to make progress in its compliance with its commitments under international humanitarian law.
Uruguay’s Military Penal Code (1943), as amended, under the heading “Crimes which affect the moral strength of the army and of the naval forces”, lists a number of acts, such as the violation of the rule of humane treatment of POWs, looting, attacks against certain specific objects, for which it provides punishment.
Uruguay’s Law on the Establishment of the National Human Rights Institution (2008) states:
ARTICLE 4º – (Mandate). – The INDDHH [National Human Rights Institution] shall be responsible for:
J) Hearing and investigating, at the request of a party or ex officio, alleged violations of human rights in accordance with the procedure established by this Law.
K) Suggesting to the relevant authorities the adoption of the measures that are considered appropriate to put an end to the ascertained violation of human rights, establishing the time limit for their execution and suggesting the reparations that are considered adequate, without prejudice to the possibility to issue general recommendations directed at eliminating or preventing similar situations.
L) In the course of an investigation started at the request of a party or ex officio, suggesting to the relevant authorities the adoption of the urgent provisional measures that are considered appropriate to end the alleged violation of human rights, prevent the realization of damages, the increase of those already produced or their cessation.
ARTICLE 14 – (Time limit). – The time limit for lodging the complaint or for ex-officio action is six months as of the time in which the acts or facts at stake became known.
In the case of human rights violations that could be considered genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes there is no time limit for lodging the complaint.
ARTICLE 30. – (Criminal complaint). – If the Executive Council of the INDDHH deems that, in view of the nature of the facts for which the complaint was lodged or of its investigations, an alleged crime has taken place, it must bring it to the attention to the relevant justice [authorities].
ARTICLE 31. –
(Suspension of intervention). – When, during the investigation of a complaint, the case is brought before the relevant authority for a judicial decision, or before an administrative court, the Executive Council of the INDDHH shall suspend its involvement in the case[.]
In 2011, in Criminal case No. 250/2011, Uruguay’s First Round of the Criminal Court of Appeals stated:
International criminal law has clearly evolved from the entry into force of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their 1977 Additional Protocols, with this progress leading to the establishment of the International Criminal Court. The goal has, however, always been the same: to achieve the prosecution and punishment of authors of serious violations of international humanitarian law. And at all times it has sought to oblige States Parties to adopt the necessary legislative measures to sanction those responsible [for such violations].
In 2011, in a statement before the UN Security Council during an open debate on children and armed conflict, made partly on behalf of the Group of Friends of Children and Armed Conflict, including Uruguay, the deputy permanent representative of Canada stated:
Although the Friends Group applauds the action taken by the [UN] Security Council so far in strengthening accountability for persistent perpetrators of grave violations against children, we call for further decisive action in three ways against such perpetrators … . Third, we remain concerned with the accountability gap and call … upon national authorities and all parties concerned to take appropriate legal actions against persistent perpetrators.
In 2012, in its third periodic report to the Committee against Torture, Uruguay stated:
333. Article 2 of Act No. 18026 [2006 Law on Cooperation with the ICC] provides that Uruguay has the right and the duty to try acts classified as offences under international law, especially crimes recognized in the  Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which was ratified by Uruguay pursuant to Act No. 17510 of 27 June 2002. …
337. Article 4, paragraph 2 [of the 2006 Law on Cooperation with the ICC] also states that, where a person suspected of having committed a crime under Act No. 18026 [including war crimes] is present in the territory of Uruguay or in a place subject to its jurisdiction, the State is obliged to take the necessary steps to exercise its jurisdiction in respect of the crime or offence if it has not received a request for surrender to the International Criminal Court or an extradition request … The suspicion referred to in the first part of this paragraph must be based on reasonable grounds.
In 2013, in a statement before the UN Security council during a debate on children and armed conflict, made on behalf of the Friends of Children and Armed Conflict, including Uruguay, the permanent representative of Canada stated:
Holding perpetrators to account [for] grave violations against children continues to be rare as indicated by the [UN] Secretary-General in his annual report, and yet is a crucial element towards protecting children’s rights. The Friends encourage Member States to strengthen national accountability mechanisms and judicial capacities, including by developing child protection legislations that criminalize all grave violations against children. In those cases where national authorities are unwilling or unable to hold perpetrators to account, due to lack of capacity or resources for instance, international justice mechanisms, including through the work of the International Criminal Court, and ad hoc and mixed tribunals, can and should play a complementary role.
Uruguay’s Law on Cooperation with the ICC (2006) states:
Asylum or refugee protection must not be granted if there are good reasons to believe that the person has committed one of the crimes or offences set out by the present law [including genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes], even if the person fulfils the conditions for receiving asylum or requesting refugee status.
Uruguay’s Law on Refugee Status (2006) states under the heading “Exclusion Clauses”:
Not entitled to the legal status of refugee in the Uruguayan territory are persons with respect to whom there are serious reasons for considering that:
A) They have committed … a war crime … as defined by international law.