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A new bill to allow elderly prisoners to serve their remaining prison time under house arrest is causing outrage in Uruguay, because it could see the release of former military officials jailed for abusing human rights during the country’s dictatorship four decades ago, the BBC reported.

The bill, passed in the Senate last month, would ease the process for prisoners over the age of 65 to serve their sentences at home.

Among those who could be released are military officials who were involved in Uruguay’s 1973-1985 dictatorship. In that period, the regime committed numerous human rights abuses, including torture and extra-judicial executions. It is accused of disappearing nearly 200 people.

Still, supporters of the legislation describe it as “humanitarian,” preserving the “human dignity” of ill detainees.

However, victims’ organizations called the legislation a “big step backward.” Activist Sara Méndez, who was kidnapped during the dictatorship period and had her baby son taken from her, said it failed to consider the victims’ perspective and to distinguish crimes committed by individuals and crimes committed by the state.

In the nearly four decades since the restoration of democracy in the country, little justice has been done, victims of the dictatorship told the BBC.

While those convicted of crimes such as killing, torturing, or disappearing citizens would be exempted from early release provisions, only 28 people have been convicted of such crimes, and most of the dictatorship’s perpetrators have been charged with lesser offenses than crimes against humanity.

Meanwhile, ahead of voting on the proposal, a senator from the far-right Open Cabildo party, part of the ruling coalition, said dictatorship-era military officials were now facing “a process of revenge and not justice,” El País reported. Lawmakers rejected his proposed amendment to automatize house arrest for prisoners over 70, leaving the transfer in the hands of judges.

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