Argentina has acknowledged its responsibility for the impunity seen in the investigation into the July 18, 1994 terrorist bombing of the AMIA Jewish community centre.
Natalia D’Alessandro, the coordinator of the AMIA Special Investigation Unit, part of the Justice & Human Rights Ministry, told a meeting of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) in Montevideo that the Argentine State is “responsible for not having prevented the attack” and “responsible for all the manifestations of impunity” related to the case.
"I come on behalf of the Argentine Republic to ratify the recognition of its international responsibility (...) for the violation of the human rights of the victims of the AMIA bombing and their families," said D'Alessandro.
"It is responsible for all the manifestations of impunity in this case, for the preparation of a false accusation, for the corruption, for the failure to follow up on the lines of investigation, for the unreasonable deadlines, for the secrecy, for the cover-up of the truth and for the political manipulation of the case,” said D’Alessandro in a strongly worded denunciation of the murky probe into the bombing and its fallout.
“We come to this hearing to express a sincere acknowledgement: it extends to all human rights violations," concluded the official.
In "the worst terrorist attack against Argentine society," the State "did not take adequate protection measures despite the risk," she said.
The AMIA bombing, which killed 85 people and left more than 300 injured, is Argentina's deadliest terrorist attack to date. The terror attack completely destroyed AMIA’s eight-storey building in the Once neighbourhood, home to the largest Jewish community in Buenos Aires.
Twenty-eight years after it occurred, the authors and perpetrators of the crime have still not been jailed.
The claim, heard by the IACHR under the framework of the court’s 153rd sessions held in Uruguay this week, was brought by relatives of the victims who are organised under the Memoria Activa civil association, which is supported by the Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS).
The group accuse the State of failing to have prevented the attack and of not having investigated it adequately and effectively in the aftermath.
The case arrived at the IACHR after investigation by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a body from the Organisation of American States (OAS) that investigates claims in which its members have failed to act.
In its conclusion to the court, the Inter-American Commission concluded that the Argentine authorities "knew of the existence of a situation of risk to sites identified with the Argentine Jewish community" and "did not adopt reasonable measures to avoid" that danger.
It also argued that "major irregularities" were committed by the state bodies that conducted the judicial investigation into the attack, which was deliberately diverted for more than eight years.
In addition, the body found that there was "unreasonable delay" in both the investigation of the bombing and the subsequent cover-ups that took place.
No-one has been arrested in the case and the motives for the attack have not yet been clarified. Argentina’s justice system has determined that the main suspects in the attack are the Iranian rulers at the time of the attack, including former president Ali Rafsanjani.
A 2019 trial into the attack ended with light sentences for judicial and government officials from the government of former president Carlos Menem (1989-99), who were found guilty of "covering up" the attack, but without determining the reason for the concealment of evidence or the diversion of investigations committed by the cover-ups.
Following Argentina’s recognition of culpability, the IACHR can now issue a sentence that includes compensation and directives to redirect the investigation into the terrorist attack and who was behind it.
The rulings of the court, based in San José, Costa Rica, are final and not subject to appeal.
After hearing the acknowledgement, Uruguayan judge Ricardo Pérez Manrique, IACHR president, recalled that at the hearing the court had heard of "corruption, lack of independence and lack of professionalism at the highest levels of the Argentine state," which he said were the cause of the delays in the investigation.
"We must understand that this is covered by the recognition that has been made," he said.
In a statement, Memoria Activa said the decision filled the group “with hope.”
"We think this recognition is important, just as we celebrated the recognition in 2005, which had filled us with hope at the time. The 2005 decree had an annex that the state had to comply with. Today we are in 2022. We are encouraged by the recognition, but we will be happy when it is translated into concrete actions that work for everyone. For that to happen, there will have to be changes. I am surprised that we are waiting for the Court to punish the State to see if the State is prepared to comply," said Memoria Activa’s Diana Wassner.
The group first denounced violations by the Argentine State to the IACHR in 1999, together with CELS and another group, the Centre for Justice and International Law (CEJIL).
They accused Argentina of human rights violations including the right to life, to physical integrity, to judicial guarantees and to effective judicial protection.
Days before the 11th anniversary of the attack on the AMIA centre, then-president Néstor Kirchner signed a government decree acknowledging the State’s responsibility or not having clarified or prevented the terrorist attack.