May 22, 2013
By Michael Soltys
Buenos Aires Herald Senior Editor
While the controversial agreement with Iran rubberstamped by last Thursday’s 39-31 Senate vote perhaps warrants the guarded benefit of the doubt extended by Amnesty International, the doubts are also legion. While Amnesty International’s logic seems to be that this possible opening in the investigation of the 1994 terrorist bomb destruction of the AMIA Jewish community centre (with no guarantee of any success) was at least better than a sterile status quo, this agreement could also mean closure of the worst kind. Hopes that this agreement could lead to truth and justice for the AMIA case may also end in both cancelling each other out — in other words, the creation of a “truth commission” might imply that there was no truth in the previous efforts of Argentine justice pointing in the direction of Iran while Senate approval of the nine-point memorandum of understanding with Iran elevates it to the status of international treaty overriding Argentine law. Rather more specifically, this treaty status could also override the international arrest warrants issued against Iranian officials by Interpol — perhaps a key reason for Tehran’s haste with some of these officials candidates in Iran’s June elections.
Whatever Iran’s motives for breakneck speed, there are no grounds why these should be binding for Argentina’s parliamentary institutions. Apart from the urgency given to this controversial agreement for which extraordinary sessions were called (even if over 10 hours of debate were allowed on Thursday), it is also striking that no amendments were deemed necessary to clarify or amplify an extremely sketchy nine-point MOU. The fact that no less than 70 of the 72 senators could make up their minds either for or against such a delicate matter is also remarkable. Perhaps the single most worrying point requiring clarification is the continuing exclusion of special AMIA prosecutor Alberto Nisman (earlier denied access to the Senate committee proceedings) — despite being appointed by the Néstor Kirchner presidency seven years ago and the most in-depth investigator of the case, Nisman’s participation in the interrogation of the Iranian officials in Tehran remains in doubt with the arrest warrant against him there and his disqualification seems an unwritten clause of this agreement.
Final approval now passes to the Lower House where the ruling party’s caucus unity is more uncertain amid tensions with various provinces — along with the benefit of the doubt, the agreement still faces the burden of proof that its premises are sound.