Argentina: did Israel kill off AMIA bombers?

The 20-year-old investigation into the July 1994 bombing of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association (AMIA) building in Buenos Aires took a new turn on Jan. 2 with the publication of a claim by former Israeli ambassador to Argentina Yitzhak Aviran (1993-2000) that his country had killed most of the perpetrators. "The vast majority of the guilty parties are in another world, and this is something we did," Aviran told the Spanish-language Jewish News Agency (AJN) in an interview about his experiences in Argentina. On Jan. 3 Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor dismissed the claim as "complete nonsense."

The bombing of AMIA's community center left 85 dead and some 300 injured in the worst incident of anti-Semitic violence since World War II; it came two years after 29 people were killed in a bombing of the Israeli embassy. Argentine prosecutors have accused Iran of planning the attacks and using operatives from the Lebanese organization Hezbollah to carry them out. The investigation has made little progress over the past two decades, and former president Carlos Saúl Menem (1989-1999) faces possible charges of impeding the initial inquiry. In 2013 Argentina and Iran agreed to proceed with a joint investigation into the AMIA attack, but Israel opposes the accord, as do Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman and spokespeople from Argentina's Jewish community.

"From Aviran's statements we can deduce the reasons why Israel has opposed the Memorandum of Understanding" with Iran, Argentine foreign minister Héctor Timerman said in response to the interview. Aviran's "words are very serious because they would imply that Israel hid information from Argentine courts, blocking new evidence from appearing," Timerman added. He demanded that Aviran tell Argentine prosecutors whether Israel has further information. (AJN, Jan. 2; Haaretz, Israel, Jan. 3, from Jewish Telegraphic Agency; Buenos Aires Herald, Jan. 4)

Dirty War justice deferred
In other news, on Jan. 14 the US Supreme Court ruled in a 9-0 decision that the German auto manufacturer Daimler AG could not be sued in a US court for alleged human rights violations at the company's Mercedes-Benz factory in Argentina. The ruling in Daimler AG v. Bauman is the second time in a year that the court has thrown out a human rights suit based on the 1789 Alien Tort Statute: in April 2013 the court rejected a similar suit, Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum. Mercedes-Benz is under investigation in Argentina for alleged violations and collaboration with the 1976-1983 military dictatorship. (Reuters, Jan. 14)

Meanwhile, a recently recovered US State Department memo from April 1977 reinforces earlier indications that former secretary of state Henry Kissinger (1973-1977) approved the atrocities committed by the Argentine junta in 1976 against suspected leftists. According to the memo, then-US ambassador to Argentina Robert Hill told then-assistant secretary of state for human rights Patt Derian about a conversation Kissinger held the previous June with Argentine foreign minister César Augusto Guzzetti. "Kissinger asked [Guzzetti] how long will it take you (the Argentines) to clean up the problem," the memo says, referring to the Argentine left. "Guzzetti replied that it would be done by the end of the year. Kissinger approved. In other words, Ambassador Hill explained, Kissinger gave the Argentines the green light." In 2003 the DC-based nonprofit National Security Archive released a memo describing a similar but somewhat less explicit conversation between Kissinger and Guzzetti in October 1976. (Mother Jones, Jan. 14)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, January 19.