Chile's Chamber of Deputies voted Friday to reject a motion presented by opposition legislators and human rights group to dismiss Supreme Court justices Carlos Künsemüller, Hugo Dolmestch, and Manuel Valderrama, for granting parole to seven former agents of Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship (1974 - 1990) convicted of crimes against humanity.
After a nine-hour-long debate, the motion was rejected by a simple majority only three days after Chile commemorated its 45th anniversary since the Sept. 11 coup that ousted democratically-elected socialist President Salvador Allende.
Carmen Hertz, the author of the failed initiative in Congress, condemned the decision. "It shows the nature of the right wing in our country and the wish to turn the page on a past that brought pain and sorrow to thousands of families," she said.
Ruling party legislator Luciano Coke argued the accusation was "particularly unfair to the three judges who have been, during many years, people who have defended human rights in a practical and impeccable way."
Former Supreme Court President Milton Juica, another critic of the motion to dismiss, said: "there has never been in Chile such a rude attempt to intervene in judicial independence."
Over a month ago the three justices granted parole to former judge Gamaliel Soto, former soldiers Jose Quintanilla Fernandez, Hernan Portillo Aranda and Felipe Gonzalez Astorga, and police officer Manuel Perez Santillan, who had been carrying out sentences for kidnapping, torture, homicide, and crimes against humanity.
All five were involved in the disappearance and torture of 31-year-old Dr. Eduardo Gonzalez Galeno in 1973 and the imprisonment of his wife who was three months pregnant at the time.
The motion's supporters argued the judges had to be dismissed because they had violated international law, and "abandoned their duties" to prevent impunity.
Lorena Pizarro, President of the Group of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared, warned in August that “impunity carries a great risk, the repetition of the genocide."
Chile's military dictatorship had over 40,000 victims, including over 3,000 persons who were tortured, murdered and/or forcibly disappeared.