Irwin Cotler - "International Terrorists Should Be Prosecuted, Not Placated"
It was established a while ago that this was almost certainly a joint operation by Lebanon's Hizbullah and the Iranian government (or, at least, important elements of the Iranian government), and for some time Argentine courts have been fruitlessly trying to extradite figures from Iran and Hizbullah accused of having played key roles. But now, according to an announcement in February of this year, the Argentine government seems to be trying to cut a deal with the perpetrators to whitewash the whole affair.
The Canadian Member of Parliament Irwin Cotler, former Minister of Justice and Attorney-General, has been a major figure in international human rights law. In a piece published earlier this week (below), Cotler made this argument:
It is simply unacceptable – and indeed incomprehensible – that, despite the issuance of six international arrest warrants there have been no convictions in connection with these horrendous terrorist attacks. [....] The notion that [a joint Argentine-Iranian "truth commission"] can result in anything but the sanitizing of these nearly 20 year old crimes is as unfounded as it is absurd. Simply put, it is not greater cooperation from the very regime that has carried out repeated terrorist attacks that is needed – which is akin to appointing the arsonist to investigate the fire – but rather the political will of the Argentine government – and that of the international community – to take immediate action to hold those who disregard international law and human rights accountable.He's right.
(P.S. Of course, given the prevailing tenor of public discourse on such matters, the first and only thing that some people will notice about Cotler is that he is Jewish and a Zionist—that is, he supports Israel's right to exist—and for some people this is enough to be a thought-stopper. Yes, it is well known that the promotion of "human rights and democracy " is all part of a Jewish plot, as the esteemed statesman Mahathir Mohamad, the former long-time Prime Minister of Malaysia, famously pointed out in 2003. But if that's right, then I must confess that I don't see this as much cause for embarrassment.)
June 3, 2013
International Terrorists Should Be Prosecuted, Not Placated
By Irwin Cotler
This June – in sham elections that are certain to be neither free nor fair – eight presidential candidates who have all been authorized to run by the Guardian Council of Iran will “contend” for the office currently held by the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Indeed, the résumés of two candidates in particular stand out: Moshen Rezai and Ali Akbar Velayati have both been indicted by Argentinian authorities for their complicity in the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish Center in Argentina that left 85 dead and more than 300 injured.
In total, six Iranians have been placed on INTERPOL’s most wanted list since 2007, including Rezai, as well as the current defense minister – and former commander of the Quds force of the IRGC – Gen. Ahmed Vahidi, who presides over Iran’s nuclear weaponization program. Yet to this day there has not been a single conviction obtained in connection with this mass atrocity.
Certainly, the failure to prosecute and convict those responsible for the indiscriminate terroristic murder of Argentine civilians in 1992 and 1994 – attacks that targeted innocent civilians based on nothing more than their identity as Jews or Israelis – is not for lack of evidence. Indeed, Argentine authorities possess strong evidence of Iranian complicity in both attacks through their terrorist-proxy organization Hezbollah.
In 1998, the Argentine government expelled seven Iranian diplomats and stated that it had “convincing proof” of Iranian complicity. In 1999, Argentine authorities formally charged Imad Mugniyeh – a Hezbollah operative – in connection with both attacks. In 2006 – following a formal investigation – Argentine chief prosecutor Alberto Nisman stated that “[w]e deem it proven that the decision to carry out [the 1994 AMIA attack] was made by the highest authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran which directed Hezbollah to carry out the attack.”
Accordingly, based on this comprehensive investigation by special prosecutor Nisman, nine suspects were formally indicted, including former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rasfanjani, ironically considered too “moderate” by Supreme Leader Khamenei to be allowed to run as a candidate for president.
It is simply unacceptable – and indeed incomprehensible – that, despite the issuance of six international arrest warrants there have been no convictions in connection with these horrendous terrorist attacks. Simply put, the Argentine government has failed to pursue any international juridical remedies against the Iranian regime for its demonstrable complicity in these acts of international terrorism, which clearly constitute grave violations of Argentine sovereignty and international human rights.
But worse, reports from 2011 show that Argentinian Foreign Minister Hector Timerman had reportedly offered to freeze the ongoing AMIA inquiry in exchange for enhanced economic relations with Iran, despite the outcry in Argentina by the families of the victims, Argentinian jurists, Argentinian special prosecutor Nisman himself, and the by the broader Argentine public.
Although it yet possible – and imperative – that justice be pursued for the victims and their families – the real question is whether the Argentinian government has the necessary political will to do so.
Although both attacks were clearly intended to target Jews and Israelis – as was noted by Nisman in his 800-page report – these terrorist attacks were also likely aimed at intimidating the Argentine government in order to coerce a change in Argentine foreign policy.
In particular, the 1994 AMIA bombing occurred in the immediate aftermath of the Argentine government’s suspension of a nuclear technology transfer contract with Tehran just a few months earlier.
Indeed, in a report released just last Wednesday, Nisman claimed Iran has been setting up intelligence stations in different parts of Latin America with the aim of carrying out terrorist attacks either directly or through Hezbollah, using the experience of both the penetration – and impunity – resulting from the Argentinian atrocity.
International terrorism must be condemned – and justice for its victims pursued – in order for the international community to combat the fourfold Iranian threat, namely, the threat of nuclear weaponization, state-sanctioned incitement to genocide, the massive domestic repression of Iranian human rights, and, of course, state-sponsored international terrorism.
Indeed, holding the perpetrators responsible for these crimes would only underpin the international community’s resolve and ensure that the Iranian regime’s utter disregard for international law and basic human rights will not go unpunished.
Interestingly enough, after former Argentine president Nester Kirchner described his government’s failure to move forward with the AMIA matter as a “national disgrace,” current President Christina Kirchner, in a shocking policy reversal, announced the establishment of a joint Argentine-Iranian “truth commission” whereby judicial authorities from both countries will convene to investigate the 1994 attacks.
The notion that such a commission can result in anything but the sanitizing of these nearly 20 year old crimes is as unfounded as it is absurd. Simply put, it is not greater cooperation from the very regime that has carried out repeated terrorist attacks that is needed – which is akin to appointing the arsonist to investigate the fire – but rather the political will of the Argentine government – and that of the international community – to take immediate action to hold those who disregard international law and human rights accountable.
Indeed, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird has expressed his concern about the impartiality of the joint Argentinian-Iranian investigation, saying that “Those affected by this [terrorism] deserve justice, and that is simply not feasible if Iran joins this investigation.”
Moreover, United States Senators Mark Kirk (R-Illinois) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) signed a joint letter in March addressed to the Argentine president expressing their fear that the joint commission – established in conjunction with the very state whose leadership stand accused of committing the crime in question – will in fact lead to the “whitewashing of this heinous crime” and will ultimately result in the dismissal of outstanding charges.
The senators are correct to oppose what they describe in their letter as “the extrication of this case from [Argentine] legal process.” Indeed, the seeking of justice in this regard should not be a matter for diplomatic appeasement.
Rather, Argentina should demand that the Iranian government extradite those suspects who have been formally charged in Argentina, while the international community must demand that Iran put an end to the use of international terrorism – and its intending impunity – as an instrument of foreign policy.
The writer is a Canadian member of Parliament and the former justice minister and attorney-general of Canada. He is the co-chairman (with US Senator Mark Kirk) of the Inter-Parliamentary Group for Human Rights in Iran.