Human Rights Watch today criticised the recent “treason” and “concealment” charges levelled against former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her former allies as part of the investigation into the 1994 AMIA Jewish community centre bombing, describing them as “far-fetched” and “unreasonable.”
In a strongly worded statement, the human rights organisation’s regional director said the move “further tarnishes the credibility of the Argentine Judiciary over the AMIA attack investigation.”
On December 6, Federal Judge Claudio Bonadio shook up the political landscape by asking for the jailing of former president and senator, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, former foreign minister Héctor Timerman, and a host of secondary characters for high treason in relation to the controversial Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Iran, in the context of the AMIA terrorist attack.
In a headline move, Bonadio requested that Fernández de Kirchner be stripped of her congressional immunity and arrested immediately. According to judicial sources, in his ruling Bonadio reasoned that the former president may use her contacts to “obstruct the case.”
Eighty-five people were killed in the 1994 terror attack on the Argentine Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA) property, while another 300 were injured. To date, no-one has been convicted for the attack, 23 years on.
“Relatives of victims of the AMIA terrorist attack deserve justice for this heinous crime,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “But, instead of promoting accountability, this far-fetched indictment further tarnishes the credibility of the Argentine Judiciary over the AMIA attack investigations.”
Basing his ruling on late AMIA special prosecutor Alberto Nisman’s complaint, filed four days before he was found dead with a gunshot wound to the head in January 2015, Bonadio has accused Fernández de Kirchner and 11 others of colluding with Iran to cover up their involvement in the dual AMIA (1994) and Israeli Embassy (1992) bombings in exchange for a deal involving grains and hard currency. Prior to his death, Nisman alleged that the government had offered impunity for Iranian officials (Moshen Rezai, Ali Fallahian, Ahmad Vahidi, Moshen Rabbani and Ahmad Asghari) in exchange for trade deals.
One of the most damaging and contentious points was the Fernández de Kirchner administration’s alleged intention to push for dropping Interpol red notices, or international arrest warrants, for high-level Iranian nationals.
“Even if the agreement with Iran provided little guarantee of justice for the AMIA victims, pursuing criminal charges for treason against officials responsible for negotiating an international accord seems strained and unreasonable,” Vivanco said.
According to Human Rights watch, the grounds for the indictment fail to “explain any clear need for pre-trial detention.”
“Under international human rights standards, pretrial detention should be used only as a means of last resort, often because other means are insufficient to guarantee a person’s appearance at trial, protect public safety, or safeguard the integrity of an ongoing investigation. The seriousness of an alleged offence is not in and of itself a legitimate reason for pretrial detention.,” the NGO said in its statement.
Human Rights Watch called on the courts to “immediately reverse the decision.”
“Any official who engaged in corruption should be appropriately prosecuted, but Bonadio’s unreasonable charges do little to advance the cause of justice in Argentina,” Vivanco said.