Twenty four years after the bombing that destroyed the Buenos Aires headquarters of the Israeli-Argentine Mutual Association (AMIA), which killed 85 people and wounded more than 300, a vigil and demonstration took place today in front of the current headquarters to remember the victims and demand justice.
The terrorist attack against the Jewish community center was carried out on July 18th, 1994 at 9:53 AM. Today’s event began at that exact hour; survivors, victims’ families, Jewish community leaders, and political figures were all present as each one of the victims was honored with the reading of their name, a lit candle, and a rose. Additionally, a candle was lit in the honor of Alberto Nisman, former special prosecutor of the AMIA case (his still-unresolved death happened three and a half years ago).
The AMIA bombing is not just something we remember once a year to pay respects to the victims, but an event that represents a pivotal shift in the political and social landscape of Argentina. It was not only the largest terrorist attack on Argentine soil to date, but also in the whole of Latin America. Though 24 years have passed, not a single suspect has been apprehended or charged in relation to the crime, although evidence points to Hezbollah operatives and Iranian officials who carried out the attack after Argentina’s unilateral decision to suspend a nuclear technology program.
That’s one theory, at least. Today, as in past AMIA memorial events, there are two main topics of focus: justice for the victims and the Nisman case.
#AMIA Por todos. 85 asesinados. 300 heridos. Por los de la Embajada de Israel también. Familias damnificadas. Nisman. Por los que perecieron, por los que sobrevivieron, por los que están y siguen exigiendo justicia. Tzedek tzedek tirdof! pic.twitter.com/ObO5bLdtvu
— Mica Seidman (@MicuSeidman) July 18, 2018
“In times of impunity, to remember is to demand justice.”
For many, the AMIA anniversary is a reminder of how the Argentine judicial system has failed them. Current AMIA president Agustín Zbar was the first speaker at today’s event. “We require concrete actions from the national government that demonstrate their true interest in seeing that the accused are captured, concrete actions that demonstrate, once and for all, that the AMIA cause is a true cause of the State,” he affirmed.
He also asked that the three branches of government be “actively” involved: “It is evident that it is not enough for the judge to appeal for the arrest of former Iranian chancellor [Ali Akbar Velayti]. The involvement of the entire government is necessary. We all have to do more.”
Zbar added, “It is expected that the judges that break the circle of impunity and distrust with the devastating force of truth, that force that judicial sentences have when they are based in evidence and proof. The impunity that we have is a threat to the liberties we defend.”
Although President Macri was not present at the vigil, he met with AMIA leaders in the Casa Rosada this morning and later tweeted, “We are with the families of the victims and we again ratify an agreement to fight against terrorism and work until truth is reached and there is justice.”
A 24 años del atentado a la AMIA acompañamos a los familiares de las víctimas y ratificamos una vez más el compromiso de luchar contra el terrorismo y trabajar hasta alcanzar la verdad y que se haga justicia
— Mauricio Macri (@mauriciomacri) July 18, 2018
Various journalists (read more: here and here) remind us that the Argentine Judiciary already determined the Iranian officials responsible for the planning, financing, and execution of the attack. There are active alerts in Interpol for their capture; however, they travel freely around the world.
Now, it’s impossible to talk about the AMIA case without a discussion of Nisman’s shocking death, which occurred the day before he was set to testify before Congress to explain his decision to summon then-President Cristina Kirchner for questioning.
- Read more: 2015 in Review: the Nisman Case
At today’s memorial event, current AMIA director also addressed the elephant in the room by linking the death of Alberto Nisman to his relation to the organization. “It was indubitably linked to his work as special prosecutor.” He continued, “The unbearable delay and the confusion surrounding the explanation of his death is a direct consequence of the impunity of the AMIA criminals.” He lamented that there has been little clarification surrounding Nisman’s death in the past three years.
Is justice possible?
In order to progress in the investigations and in carrying out justice, there must be a concerted effort and political will throughout the government and the public. Is that still possible after 24 years? Through an Infobae Op-Ed, Zbar states that AMIA will do more to work with the international community to involve foreign bodies in the apprehension of Iranian suspects.
Signs of this involvement may already be evident, as this morning Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, spoke at the memorial. Zbar states, “his speech will help give visibility to our cause past the borders of our country.
“It is fundamental to generate action and draw international alliances in order to reclaim justice for AMIA in the consortium of democratic nations of the world.”
“Declared a crime against humanity, the AMIA massacre should be completely settled. The victims, their families, the survivors, everyone, we deserve justice and the punishment of those who are guilty. Only then will we remove the heavy burden we carry on our backs: impunity.”