Buenos Aires — Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman and his Iranian counterpart Ali Akbar Salehi signed an agreement to form an independent commission to investigate the 1994 bombing of the Buenos Aires Jewish community center, AMIA.
According the agreement both countries will create a “Commission of Truth”, consisting of five independent judges, none of whom will be from either Argentina or Iran, to investigate the bombing.
The suspects may be interrogated by Argentinean justice officials but only in Teheran, according to the agreement.
Timerman, who is Jewish, said the agreement will make it possible for Argentine legal officials to question Iranian suspects in Tehran. “This is the main objective of the relatives of the victims in the advancement of the case. In order to advance, Argentinean officials need to question Iranian suspects. That’s what will happen,” Timerman said in an interview with the state news agency from Ethiopia, where the agreement was signed Sunday on the sidelines of an African Union summit in Addis Ababa.
The agreement must still be ratified by the parliaments of both countries.
Argentinean president Cristina Fernandez wrote on her Twitter account that almost 19 years after the attack, in which 85 people were killed and hundreds wounded, for the first time a legal instrument based on international law was agreed upon between Argentina and Iran in order to proceed with the investigation. She said that the agreement with Iran is “historic” because it guarantees due process.
Timerman met for first time with his Iranian counterpart on Sept. 27, 2012 at the United Nations headquarters in New York to discuss the 1994 AMIA bombing case.
Israel, the United States and the Argentinean Jewish community have spoken out against these bilateral meetings.
Though Argentina has accused the Iranian government of directing the bombing, and the Lebanon-based terror group Hezbollah of carrying it out, no arrests has been made in the case. Six Iranians have been on the Interpol international police agency’s most wanted list since 2007 in connection with the bombing, including the current Iranian Defense Minister, Gen. Ahmed Vahidi.
In October 2010, Iran rejected Argentina’s proposal to put its accused citizens on trial in a neutral country. “The Iranian government has ensured that no Iranian citizen was involved, directly or indirectly, in the bombing of the AMIA,” read the official letter sent to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
“How is it possible to reach an understanding to solve the case with those who have denied any involvement in the bombing? Whose legal standards are going to prevail? What level of trust can anyone have in a totalitarian regime that has no respect for human rights? Our Center will always stand in solidarity with the families of the victims and continue to fight for truth and justice”, Sergio Widder, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s director for Latin America, told JTA.
Local Jewish leaders have yet to comment. Some relatives of the victims hope the agreement will advance the longstanding investigation. Some, including members of the Argentinean political opposition, have expressed doubts as to whether Iran will participate in the investigation.
Iran also is believed to be behind the 1992 car bombing that destroyed the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, killing 29 and injuring 242. No one has been convicted in either of the attacks.