Home inContext New Concerns Over Buenos Aires Truth Commission

New Concerns Over Buenos Aires Truth Commission

Michael Johnson

Interpol announced Friday that arrest warrants for Iranian citizens suspected in a 1990s bombing of a Jewish community center would not be lifted, despite a truth commission established between Tehran and Buenos Aires last month. Argentina’s judiciary should now be able to question eight suspects in the bombings, but six year old arrest warrants for Iran’s Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi and former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani will not be lifted.

Iran and Argentina signed the agreement in January outside an African Union summit in Ethiopia. Argentina’s congress approved the “truth commission” in February after heated debate. The bilateral agreement would allow Argentine officials to question suspects in Tehran.

Jewish men looking on as rescuers sift through the rubble at the site of a car-bombing at the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on July 18, 1994. (Photo: Bloomberg)

Argentine prosecutors blamed both Iran and Hezbollah for bombing the Jewish-Argentine Mutual Association (AMIA) on July 18th 1994. The blast, from a van loaded with 600 pounds of fertilizer, leveled a seven story building in Buenos Aires, killing 85 people and wounding 300. The Iranian government always denied involvement in the attack. The bombing, along with another attack on the Israeli Embassy in 1992, shook Argentina’s large Jewish population of nearly 200,000 and bore hallmarks Iranian involvement.

The new agreement has proven to be controversial, and possibly unconstitutional, with a number of political and religious groups opposing it. Argentine President Cristina Fernandez holds close ties with leftist leaders in Latin America who are friendly to Tehran, such as the late Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez. Opposition party member and former ambassador to the U.S., Eduardo Amadeo, said “This is the chronicle of a failure foretold…We’re going to sell out the victims for a barrel of oil.” Jewish groups contend the commission will probably not yield convictions and undermines a nearly twenty year old investigation. The Israeli government also expressed disappointment and “protested the unacceptable attitude of the Argentine government” according to a Foreign Ministry statement.

Nearly two decades after the bombings in Latin America, Tehran and Hezbollah continue to project terror beyond the Middle East. A recent report from the Bulgarian government concludes Hezbollah was behind a 2012 bombing of an Israeli tour group. Even with a long history of attacks against unarmed civilians, Iranian and Hezbollah leaders continue to evade justice.