By Patrick Vanderpool
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay – For the first time in history, Uruguay has imprisoned an active military official for human rights violations committed during the country’s 1973-85 dictatorship.
On Monday, General Miguel Dalmao was jailed for Nibia Sabalsagaray’s 1974 murder. Sabalsagaray, a communist, was found hung in a prison cell after Dalmao had detained her. If convicted, Dalmao may face 30 years in prison. Col. Jose Chialanza was also jailed in connection with Sabalsagaray’s murder.
Sabalsagaray was found hanged in her cell shortly after being captured by Uruguayan military officers. At the time Sabalsagaray was detained, Chialanza was a battalion commander and Dalmao was a lieutenant in charge of gathering intelligence on individuals who were suspected of subversion.
Dalmao and Chialanza both claim that Sabalsagaray hanged herself. However, Prosecutor Mirtha Guianze and lawyers for Sabalsagaray’s family presented evidence that they claim rules out the possibility of suicide.
Dalmao, who currently commands the Uruguayan army’s 4th Division, has repeatedly and steadfastly asserted his innocence. Uruguay’s top army general, Jorge Rosales, has also publically supported Dalmao’s claims of innocence. Nevertheless, the Uruguayan military has not issued any statements since Dalmao was officially imprisoned.
Uruguay Supreme Court’s recent ruling, declaring unconstitutional a law which made it easier for those alleged to have committed human rights violation during the dictatorship to achieve amnesty, may pave the way for not only Dalmao and Chialanza, but many others, to serve jail time for their violations.
To this point, a dozen Uruguayan military officials have been prosecuted for crimes against humanity, but all were committed outside Uruguay. The court’s decision makes available the possibility that additional human rights violators within the country will be sought out and prosecuted.
Dalmao will remain jailed throughout the appeals process; the process will likely take several months.
For more information, please see:
The Argentina Independent – Uruguay: Military Dictatorship Crime Prosecutions – 9 November 2010
The Canadian Press – Active Uruguayan general imprisoned for aggravated murder in 1974 death of political prisoner – 8 November 2010
Kansascity.com – Active Uruguayan general imprisoned in 1974 murder – 8 November 2010