Guaranteeing the rights of victims and witnesses of violent crimes in Uruguay

EUROsociAL+ Programme supports the Attorney General's Office of Uruguay in implementing the National Victims and Witnesses Care and Protection System

Within the framework of the Programme for Social Cohesion in Latin America, the European Union EUROsociAL+ programme is accompanying the Victims and Witnesses Unit at the Attorney General's Office of Uruguay in defining and subsequently implementing the National Victims and Witnesses Care and Protection System.

The New Criminal Procedure Code entered into force in Uruguay on 1st November 2017. The new criminal procedure system provides victims with a series of rights and places the responsibility for caring for and protecting the victims on the Public Prosecutor's Office, as well as the duty to provide respectful treatment and information on the process when required. This implies an additional challenge for the General Prosecutor's Office, which must now play a new role, not only to direct and manage the investigation, but also in relation to the new responsibility assigned to assist and protect the victims of the proceedings. In order to ensure that victims and witnesses gain the rights recognised by the New Criminal Procedure Code, the General Prosecutor's Office created the Victims and Witnesses Unit (VWU), by means of Resolution No. 83/016-FGN.

As a further step in this process, the Cabinet for Victim and Witness Protection and Care was created in March 2018 by means of a Presidential Decree (Decree 831). This Cabinet, under the coordination of the General Prosecutor's Office, is composed of the Director of the Office for Victim and Witness Care and Protection, the Ministries of the Interior, Education, Labour, Public Health, Housing, and Social Development, the National Institute for Human Rights and the Ombudsman's Office, the Institute for Children and Adolescents of Uruguay, the Social Security Bank (SSB), the Public Defender of the Judiciary, representatives from civil society, and the association of relatives and victims of crime. The Cabinet's mission is to define and coordinate a comprehensive and systemic public policy that guarantees the rights of victims and witnesses of violent crimes under the current regulations, as well as to coordinate the various programmes and services aimed at the comprehensive care and protection of victims and witnesses.

In this effort, the Attorney General's Office is counting on the advice of EUROsociAL+ expert, Juan Carlos Aladro Fernández, Chief Prosecutor of the Provincial Prosecutor's Office of Pontevedra, Spain. The expert travelled to Uruguay where he undertook a number of meetings with the General Prosecutor's Office teams, especially with the VWU team. The expert also visited the prosecutor's office's training centre and specific units where the intervention of the victims or witnesses is crucial, these included the Drug Prosecutor's Office and the Homicide Prosecutor's Office; and the Purification, Prioritization, and Assignment Service. The expert also participated in several meetings with the members of the victim assistance office, in order to learn about their synergies and work methods throughout the state territory. The expert also had the opportunity to participate in a meeting of the Cabinet for Victim and Witness Protection and Care.

As a result of this initial advice, a model proposal for the implementation and development of the national attention and protection system for victims and witnesses has been submitted to the General Prosecutor's Office.

EUROsociAL+ is a cooperation programme between Latin America and the European Union which seeks to contribute to improving social cohesion in Latin American countries, as well as to institutional strengthening through supporting their processes for the design, reform and implementation of public policies. This activity is part of the access to justice line within the Democratic Governance Area coordinated by FIIAPP.

More information at:

EUROsociAL+. Área de políticas de gobernanza / governance policies unit. FIIAPP