Terrorists to Justice
Dina Siegel Vann
January 31, 2013
families of 85 people murdered almost 19 years ago recently learned that those
behind this act of terrorism are unlikely ever to face justice.
atrocity occurred on July 18, 1994, when a van packed with fertilizer and fuel
oil crashed into the headquarters of the Argentina Israelite Mutual Association
(AMIA), the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, demolishing it. In
addition to the dead, some 300 were injured. The fact that this occurred just
two years after a similar attack at the Israeli embassy in the city killed 29
pointed to a concerted anti-Jewish, anti-Israel campaign of violence, with
Argentina viewed as a “soft” target.
after years of false leads, obfuscation and delay caused by a combination of
corruption and simple incompetence, a new special prosecutor, Alberto Nisman,
issued a report blaming Hezbollah, the Lebanese-based Shi’ite terrorist group,
aided and financed by top Iranian officials. In 2007, Argentina issued international
arrest warrants for six Iranians named in the report—including the country’s
current defense minister, Ahmad Vahidi—and five of them were placed on
Interpol’s “red” list. Iran has consistently refused to cooperate, and they are
still at large.
Argentina has switched gears. After a series of meetings over the course of
several months between its foreign minister and Iran’s, a deal was reached in
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for the establishment of an international “truth
commission” to investigate the AMIA case. Its five members will be experts in
international law from other countries, and it will be led, we are told, by a
judge “with high moral standing and legal prestige.” Furthermore, the
proceedings will accord with “the laws and regulations of both countries.” As
part of the agreement, the Iranian suspects are to be questioned in Iran.
Historically, such commissions set up to address conflicts in other parts of
the world have generally led to the dropping of criminal charges, and the same will
likely happen here as well.
behind the decision to create the commission? Iran and Argentina are major
trading partners, and their leaders are eager to get the lethal bombing case
behind them. Argentinean President
Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, announcing the agreement via twitter, insisted
that “never will we allow the AMIA tragedy to be used as a chess piece in a
game of faraway geopolitical interests,” by which she presumably means the
international effort to use economic pressure to prevent Iran from attaining
nuclear-weapons capacity. Iranian President Ahmadinejad, his country’s economy
in free-fall, said that “accurate and impartial” investigations will enable
“the expansion of ties between Iran and Argentina.” Beside increased trade, he
also hopes to expand his country’s political influence in Latin America, where
Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador already count Iran as an ally.
Argentinean-Iranian arrangement to cover up the truth is scandalous. The very
idea that a country strongly suspected of plotting terrorism is to participate
in a “truth commission” investigating its own conduct is the height of
absurdity. In practical terms, the commission will allow the perpetrators to
evade justice; insult the memory of the victims; affront the Argentine judicial
system and the sense of justice of the Argentinean people; hurt the effort to
place the Tehran regime in diplomatic isolation; and embolden Iran and the
terror groups it supports to carry out similar crimes with impunity.
to be only one way to derail this perverse scheme. The agreement setting up the
commission requires the approval of the parliaments of both countries. That
Iran’s rubber-stamp parliament will concur is not in doubt. Might international
outrage and wounded patriotism induce Argentina’s legislators to prevent this
compromise with evil?
Dina Siegel Vann is director of the
American Jewish Committee (AJC) Latino and Latin American Institute.