Argentine court blames Iran and Hezbollah for 1994 bombing that killed 85

Judges declare bombing of the AMIA Jewish community centre a 'crime against humanity'

A man walks over the rubble after a bomb exploded at a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on July 18, 1994. AFP
Powered by automated translation

Argentina’s highest criminal court has concluded that the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community centre was planned by Iran and carried out by Hezbollah.

The Court of Cassation on Thursday declared that Tehran and its Lebanese proxy were responsible for the bombing in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people.

The attack was likely in retaliation for Argentina backing out of a nuclear co-operation deal, the court said.

“The significance of these grave human rights violations for the international community as a whole invokes a state’s duty to provide judicial protection,” the Associated Press quoted the ruling as saying.

It also declared the bombing of the AMIA (Asociacion Mutual Israelita Argentina) community centre a “crime against humanity”.

The decision has opened a path for victims' families to bring lawsuits against Iran.

“It opens the possibility of a case at the International Criminal Court because it established that the state of Iran is a terrorist,” said Jorge Knoblovits, president of Argentina’s umbrella Jewish organisation Daia.

Iranian officials serving at the highest levels of government at the time of the attack were accused of involvement, including president Ali Akbar Hashemi Bahramaie Rafsanjani; Ali Fallahijan, minister of information; Ali Akbar Velayati, foreign minister; Mohsen Rezai, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps; and Ahmad Vahidi, head of the IRGC Quds Force, according to Argentine newspaper La Nacion.

The court decision came as no shock: Argentina’s judiciary has long maintained Iran was behind the attack, though Tehran has denied involvement.

However, the court failed to provide concrete evidence of Iran’s direct involvement or shed new light on the case after 30 years of setbacks and scandals, saying their conclusions were based on confidential intelligence reports.

While the Jewish community in Argentina welcomed the decision, the Argentine Jewish Mutual Aid Association demanded that those behind the attack “be judged and serve time for the atrocious crime against humanity that they committed”.

In light of the court ruling, Israel has asked Argentina to declare the IRGC a terrorist organisation.

Past inquiries into the bombings have turned up indictments, not only against Iranian officials but also two former Argentine presidents.

In 2015, the chief prosecutor in the case was found dead in his bathroom the day before he was to go public with claims that top Argentine officials had conspired with Iran to cover up responsibility for the bombing. Over the years, witnesses have been threatened and bribed.

Over the past three decades, Iran has not turned over citizens convicted in Argentina. Interpol arrest warrants have led nowhere.

For the relatives of those killed in the bombings, the ruling was just a grim reminder of their anguish as the case remains open.

“We hope one day complete justice and truth will come,” said Memoria Activa, an association of families of victims of the attack. “And that these judges will stop profiting from our dead.”

Updated: April 12, 2024, 6:11 PM