This June – in sham elections that are certain to be neither free nor fair –
eight presidential candidates who have all been authorized to run by the
Guardian Council of Iran will “contend” for the office currently held by the
incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Indeed, the résumés of two candidates in
particular stand out: Moshen Rezai and Ali Akbar Velayati have both been
indicted by Argentinian authorities for their complicity in the 1994 bombing of
the AMIA Jewish Center in Argentina that left 85 dead and more than 300
In total, six Iranians have been placed on INTERPOL’s most
wanted list since 2007, including Rezai, as well as the current defense minister
– and former commander of the Quds force of the IRGC – Gen.
who presides over Iran’s nuclear weaponization program. Yet to this day there
has not been a single conviction obtained in connection with this mass
Certainly, the failure to prosecute and convict those
responsible for the indiscriminate terroristic murder of Argentine civilians in
1992 and 1994 – attacks that targeted innocent civilians based on nothing more
than their identity as Jews or Israelis – is not for lack of evidence. Indeed,
Argentine authorities possess strong evidence of Iranian complicity in both
attacks through their terrorist-proxy organization Hezbollah.
the Argentine government expelled seven Iranian diplomats and stated that it had
“convincing proof” of Iranian complicity. In 1999, Argentine authorities
formally charged Imad Mugniyeh – a Hezbollah operative – in connection with both
attacks. In 2006 – following a formal investigation – Argentine chief prosecutor
Alberto Nisman stated that “[w]e deem it proven that the decision to carry out
[the 1994 AMIA attack] was made by the highest authorities of the Islamic
Republic of Iran which directed Hezbollah to carry out the
Accordingly, based on this comprehensive investigation by
special prosecutor Nisman, nine suspects were formally indicted, including
former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rasfanjani, ironically considered too
“moderate” by Supreme Leader Khamenei to be allowed to run as a candidate for
It is simply unacceptable – and indeed incomprehensible –
that, despite the issuance of six international arrest warrants there have been
no convictions in connection with these horrendous terrorist attacks. Simply
put, the Argentine government has failed to pursue any international juridical
remedies against the Iranian regime for its demonstrable complicity in these
acts of international terrorism, which clearly constitute grave violations of
Argentine sovereignty and international human rights.
But worse, reports
from 2011 show that Argentinian Foreign Minister Hector Timerman had reportedly
offered to freeze the ongoing AMIA inquiry in exchange for enhanced economic
relations with Iran, despite the outcry in Argentina by the families of the
victims, Argentinian jurists, Argentinian special prosecutor Nisman himself, and
the by the broader Argentine public.
Although it yet possible – and
imperative – that justice be pursued for the victims and their families – the
real question is whether the Argentinian government has the necessary political
will to do so.
Although both attacks were clearly intended to target Jews
and Israelis – as was noted by Nisman in his 800-page report – these terrorist
attacks were also likely aimed at intimidating the Argentine government in order
to coerce a change in Argentine foreign policy.
In particular, the 1994
AMIA bombing occurred in the immediate aftermath of the Argentine government’s
suspension of a nuclear technology transfer contract with Tehran just a few
Indeed, in a report released just last Wednesday, Nisman
claimed Iran has been setting up intelligence stations in different parts of
Latin America with the aim of carrying out terrorist attacks either directly or
through Hezbollah, using the experience of both the penetration – and impunity –
resulting from the Argentinian atrocity.
International terrorism must be
condemned – and justice for its victims pursued – in order for the international
community to combat the fourfold Iranian threat, namely, the threat of nuclear
weaponization, state-sanctioned incitement to genocide, the massive domestic
repression of Iranian human rights, and, of course, state-sponsored
Indeed, holding the perpetrators responsible for
these crimes would only underpin the international community’s resolve and
ensure that the Iranian regime’s utter disregard for international law and basic
human rights will not go unpunished.
Interestingly enough, after former
Argentine president Nester Kirchner described his government’s failure to move
forward with the AIMA matter as a “national disgrace,” current President
Christina Kirchner, in a shocking policy reversal, announced the establishment
of a joint Argentine-Iranian “truth commission” whereby judicial authorities
from both countries will convene to investigate the 1994 attacks.
notion that such a commission can result in anything but the sanitizing of these
nearly 20 year old crimes is as unfounded as it is absurd. Simply put, it is not
greater cooperation from the very regime that has carried out repeated terrorist
attacks that is needed – which is akin to appointing the arsonist to investigate
the fire – but rather the political will of the Argentine government – and that
of the international community – to take immediate action to hold those who
disregard international law and human rights accountable.
Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird has expressed his concern about
the impartiality of the joint Argentinian-Iranian investigation, saying that
“Those affected by this [terrorism] deserve justice, and that is simply not
feasible if Iran joins this investigation.”
Moreover, United States
Senators Mark Kirk (R-Illinois) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) signed a
joint letter in March addressed to the Argentine president expressing their fear
that the joint commission – established in conjunction with the very state whose
leadership stand accused of committing the crime in question – will in fact lead
to the “whitewashing of this heinous crime” and will ultimately result in the
dismissal of outstanding charges.
The senators are correct to oppose what
they describe in their letter as “the extrication of this case from [Argentine]
legal process.” Indeed, the seeking of justice in this regard should not be a
matter for diplomatic appeasement.
Rather, Argentina should demand that
the Iranian government extradite those suspects who have been formally charged
in Argentina, while the international community must demand that Iran put an end
to the use of international terrorism – and its intending impunity – as an
instrument of foreign policy.
The writer is a Canadian member of
Parliament and the former justice minister and attorney-general of Canada. He is
the co-chairman (with US Senator Mark Kirk) of the Inter-Parliamentary Group for
Human Rights in Iran.