Today marks the 22nd anniversary of 1994 terrorist attack on the Argentine Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA), a Jewish community center. President Mauricio Macri and other government members were present at the tribute, as was the late Prosecutor Alberto Nisman as people held up signs calling for justice, some with the words Soy Nisman (“I am Nisman”) and photos of the AMIA victims.
85 people were killed and hundreds injured in the AMIA bombing. It was not only the largest terrorist attack on Argentine soil but in the whole of Latin America to date. There had also previously been deadly bombings on the Israeli embassy in 1992. The people responsible for the AMIA bombing were never located.
The tribute began at 9:53 AM with the sound of a siren, marking the exact time of the attack that took place on July 18th, 1994. Candles were then lit and a minute of silence was held to honor the victims. Their names were read out afterwards.
Macri made an appearance at the ceremony this morning, laying a wreath of flowers at the memorial and talking to relatives of the victims. However, he did not appear onstage and left the event before the speeches began: according to the Environment Minister, rabbi Sergio Bergman, he left due to “agenda issues.”
However, before he left, a journalist read out a statement written by the relatives of the victims for Macri:
“We know that you have the responsibility, among other things, to lead our country to a place where impunity will not defeat the truth. We long for [this] and need you to achieve it,” read the statement.
AMIA Vice President Ralph Thomas Saieg commended in his speech that the current government had taken some “truly positive” steps for the progress of the case and made a special mention of the Memorandum of Understanding with Iran being declared unconstitutional, stating that it was a “useless [measure].”
“Iranian citizens and Hezbollah planned and executed the bombing. There [were] local [connections]. We want progress! There is not a single suspect [in custody] after 22 years,” said Saieg.
Although the perpetrators of the attack were never located, according to Nisman, the prosecutor in charge of the AMIA Case, evidence pointed to Hezbollah operatives along with Iranian officials carrying out the attack because of Argentina’s unilateral decision to suspend a nuclear technology program. That’s one theory, at least. Hence why the Memorandum of Understanding, with its creation of a “truth commission” from both countries, was not well received by Argentina’s Jewish community.
Just hours before Nisman was due to appear before Congress to accuse the Argentine government of covering up evidence that Iran had done it, he was found dead in his apartment with a bullet wound to the head.
Saieg also urged the government to make the AMIA investigation a State priority:
“We ask the head of the special investigative unit [for the] AMIA [case], Mario Cimadevilla, and the Justice Minister, Germán Garavano, that the case be a State priority. We know that they have [only] been in their positions for a short time, but we have [waited] here for 22 years.”
This year, the motto of the ceremony was “Memory Unites Us.” A hundred or so Argentine artists recorded a tribute to the AMIA victims in a song which was filmed at the Peace Auditorium of the Argentine International Buddhist Soka Gakkai. The video was published on July 4th and repeatedly calls for justice.