Uruguay[1] [print]

Last edited: December 2005

Summary and Analysis

In 2004, Uruguay replaced its Juvenile Code from 1934 with a new Code of Children and Adolescents, Law No. 17.823.  The 1934 Code encouraged judges to act as if they were the “good family father” to children in court, and allowed them to consider the socio-economic conditions of the children in determining sentencing or removal from the home.  Children were not viewed as rights holders, and many elements of the code were subject to criticism for not complying with the CRC.

Uruguay ratified the CRC in 1990.  While no specific written legal norm guides the application of treaties into domestic law in Uruguay, in practice treaties are directly implemented under domestic law and can be invoked before domestic courts, but do not seem to carry an official authority beyond ordinary law.

The Uruguayan government decided to revise the children’s code prior to releasing their second state party report to the CRC, which led to several drafts of the new code before its final passage in 2004.  The new Code mandates that, except where impossible, the Juvenile court judge is to hear the opinions of the child in the presence of their parents and the defender.  The role of the “defender” is not clear from the statute, however there is a separate role for a Public Attorney, implying that the defender does not represent the state, and may be there to advocate for the best interest of the child. 

The official government organization in charge of implementing child protection policies and proposing new policies is the Institute of the Uruguayan Child and Adolescent Instituto del Niño y el Adolescente del Uruguay or INAU.  The institution predates the new legislation and used to be called INAME (Instituto Nacional del Menor).  Abused children who are to be adopted are processed through INAU after a judge’s determination.  INAU also approves international adoptions.

In Uruguay’s capital of Montevideo there are Juvenile courts and Juvenile justices, while in the more remote regions children have traditionally appeared before general courts and justices.  Despite our best efforts, we were unable to locate a local contact to confirm our research.

Sources of Law (In Order of Authority)

Original Text

International Law

Convención Sobre Los Derechos Del Niño, [2] ratificada por Ley No. 16.137 [ver abajo]

Artículo 12

1. Los Estados Partes garantizarán al niño que esté en condiciones de formarse un juicio propio el derecho de expresar su opinión libremente en todos los asuntos que afectan al niño, teniéndose debidamente en cuenta las opiniones del niño, en función de la edad y madurez del niño.

2. Con tal fin, se dará en particular al niño oportunidad de ser escuchado, en todo procedimiento judicial o administrativo que afecte al niño, ya sea directamente o por medio de un representante o de un órgano apropiado, en consonancia con las normas de procedimiento de la ley nacional.


Convención Sobre Los Derechos Del Niño, Ley Nº 16.137[3]

Artículo 1º.- Apruébase la Convención sobre los Derechos del Niño, adoptada en la ciudad de Nueva York el día 6 de diciembre de 1989.

Código De La Niñez Y La Adolescencia, Ley Nº 17.823[4]

I) Protección de los derechos amenazados o vulnerados de los niños y adolescentes y situaciones especiales

Artículo 117 . (Principio general).- Siempre que los derechos reconocidos a los niños y adolescentes en este Código sean amenazados o vulnerados, se aplicarán las medidas que dispone este título.

De igual forma se aplicarán a los niños que vulneren derechos de terceros.

Artículo 118 . …Salvo imposibilidad, tomará declaración al niño o adolescente, en presencia del defensor que se le proveerá en el acto y de sus padres o responsables, si los tuviere, y recabará los informes técnicos correspondientes.

El Ministerio Público deberá ser oído preceptivamente, quien intervendrá en favor del efectivo respeto a los derechos y garantías, reconocidos a los niños y adolescentes, debiéndose pronunciar en el plazo de tres días.


International Law

Convention on the Rights of the Child Article 12, ratified into law by Law 16.137

1. States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.

2. For this purpose, the child shall in particular be provided the opportunity to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child, either directly, or through a representative or an appropriate body, in a manner consistent with the procedural rules of national law.


Convention on the Rights of the Child, Law No. 16.137[6]

Article 1. The Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted in the city of New York on December 6, 1989, is approved.

Childhood and Adolescent Code, Law No. 17.823[7]

I. Protection of limited or violated children and adolescents’ rights and special situations

Article 117. 

Whenever children and adolescents rights might be endangered the following measures shall be adopted.

They shall also be applied to those children who violate third parties’ rights.

Article 118.

…Except when it is impossible, the judge shall hear the child or adolescent before the presence of the defender provided in that act and before the presence of her parents or responsible person, if any, and shall collect all the pertinent technical information.

The Public Attorney must be heard.  It shall intervene in order to obtain the effective respect for the rights and guarantees established for children and adolescents.  This will be done within 3 days.

Additional Resources and Links

Instituto del Niño y el Adolescente del Uruguay

Institute of the Child and Adolescent of Uruguay


Gurises Unidos


UNICEF Uruguay
Br. Artigas 1659, piso 12
11200 Montevideo


Additional Law on the Revocation of Parental Authority from the Uruguay Civil Code.[8]


[1] This page is also available as a .pdf Document, and Word Document.

[2] G.A. Res. 44/125, U.N. GAOR, 44th Session, Supp. No. 49, U.N. Doc. A/44/736 (1989).

[3] Convención Sobre Los Derechos Del Niño, Ley Nº 16.137, Publicada D.O. 9 de Nov 1990, Nº 23223.

[4] Código de la Niñez y la Adolescenia, Ley No. 17.823, Publicada D.O. 14 Septiembre, 2004, Nº 26586, available at: http://www.parlamento.gub.uy/leyes/ley17823.htm, and also here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[5] All of the translation in this document is unofficial.

[6] Convención Sobre Los Derechos Del Niño, Ley Nº 16.137, Publicada D.O. 9 de Nov 1990, Nº 23223.

[7] Código de la Niñez y la Adolescenia, Ley No. 17.823, Publicada D.O. 14 Septiembre, 2004, Nº 26586, available at: http://www.parlamento.gub.uy/leyes/ley17823.htm.  Additional translated articles of this code can be foundhere, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[8] Código Civil, Uruguay Cod. Civ. 2002, available at: http://www.parlamento.gub.uy/htmlstat/pl/codigos/codigocivil/2002/cod_civil.htm, and also here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

South America