May 18, 2013
Justice for all
Argentina’s perplexing decision to sign a memorandum of understanding with Iran to jointly probe the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community centre that killed 85 people is a jarring reminder that cases here take too long to solve. The attack against the AMIA was perpetrated 19 years ago in Buenos Aires, and it is still fresh in the mind, especially because justice has not been done. If a case of mass murder dating back to 1994 is still wanting of convictions then what can the relatives of the 51 fatal victims of the Once train station crash on February 22 last year and the family of the young Workers Party activist Mariano Ferreyra, killed in October 2010, expect?
The court investigations into the Once train station crash, where former national government transport sector officials are facing accusations of reponsibility, and Ferreyra’s murder, allegedly the work of a hired mob at the service of the Peronist leadership of the railway workers’ union, are relatively new cases. It is too soon to tell how long it will take for the guilty to be sentenced. Yet the risk is that these two investigations will also go down the frustrating road of other court investigations that have been slowed down by inefficiency and, at times, what looks like the deliberate dragging of feet.
The Ferreyra case is not stagnant, prominent union leaders have been arrested, but last week a judicial hearing had to be cancelled because a wanted police officer failed to show up in court (reportedly he was on holiday at a southern ski location) and authorities could not find him fast enough to attend proceedings, scheduled for last Friday. Imagine how the relatives of Ferreyra, killed near a train station during a demonstration by outsourced railway workers, must have felt about that specific shambles.
The failure of authorities to sit down supects in court on time to be questioned by judges about their alleged role in a murder sends out the wrong message. The criminal activity in the dysfunctional railway sector, dominated by a rogue union hungry to cut deals at the expense of working class commuters travelling on shoddy trains in the rush hour, allowed for the Once train station crash and Ferreyra’s murder to happen. Argentina’s challenge now is to show that its institutions can work properly so that justice can be for all.