Yesterday, Argentina finalised a bilateral agreement with Iran outlining the means by which suspects accused of perpetrating the 1994 bombing of the Mutual Israeli Argentine Society (AMIA), a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires, will be interrogated. A ‘truth commission’ composed of individuals chosen by both countries will hear the case. Both AMIA and the Delegation of Israeli Argentine Associations (DAIA) have rejected the agreement, saying it does not guarantee justice and will only delay the issue’s conclusion.
The agreement states that the judge and the prosecutor currently overseeing the AMIA case, Rodolfo Canicoba Corral and Alberto Nisman, will be able to question the five Iranian citizens allegedly implicated in the bombing in Tehran. President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner said that “Argentine judicial authorities will be able to, for the first time, interrogate those for whom Interpol has issued a red alert” and declared that “the due right of legal process, a fundamental principle of international criminal law, will be guaranteed.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Héctor Timerman, who signed the agreement alongside his Iranian counterpart Ali Akbar Salehi, stated that the agreement will “advance the cause” to solve it as “the families wish”, while Fernández called it a “unique mechanism for conflict resolution between countries, most serious that they may be. A unique pathway for global security.”
The memorandum also creates a ‘Truth Commission’ which will include “five commissioners and two designated members per each country, selected according to their recognised international legal prestige. They cannot be nationals of either of the two countries. Both countries will agree jointly with respect to an international jurist with high moral standards and legal prestige, who will act as president of the Commission.”
The announcement was met with anger from many member of the Jewish community, and AMIA and DAIA have both publically denounced the plans. “The structure of a truth commission not considered by the Argentine law that regulates the penal process, would implicate a decline in our sovereignty and a recognition that the conclusions of the judicial investigation, that give way to Interpol capture requests, are not true,” read the joint DAIA and AMIA press release published by the Jewish News Agency (AJN).
AMIA official Guillermo Borger admitted that it “sounds excellent” that Argentine judicial authorities will hear “the defendants’ plea”, but questioned its ultimate outcome. “In the case that the judge (Rodolfo Canicoba Corral) finds the accused guilty, would they be turned over?”
Lastly, AMIA and DAIA say the plan will delay the case for years. “Merely acquiring the information in order to be able to reach a conclusion will take many years, during which the cause would dilute more and more,” contended Borger.
Argentina and Iran have been negotiating how to treat the case since last September, yet few details had been announced until now.
On July 1994 a bomb killed 85, wounded 300, and destroyed the AMIA centre building, constituting the largest terrorist attack on Argentine soil. In 2006, the Argentine justice asked for the extradition of seven Iranians, including a former head of state, two former ministers, and two former diplomats. No such extraditions have been made.