Argentina-Iran: retroceso en la causa de la justicia

Bring the Terrorists to Justice

Huffington Post

Dina Siegel Vann

January 31, 2013

The families of 85 people murdered almost 19 years ago recently learned that those behind this act of terrorism are unlikely ever to face justice.

The 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.

Indeed, 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.

Now, 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.

What lies 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.

This cozy 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.

There seems 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.
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