July 18 was the 24th anniversary of the Buenos Aires AMIA bombing, in which 85 people died and hundreds more were injured.
A meeting at the House of Lords to mark the anniversary was dedicated to the so-called “86th victim” — Argentinian prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who was murdered in 2015 as he was preparing to offer new evidence about the bombing. AMIA was the central headquarters of the Argentine Jewish community.
Dr Ariel Gelblung, the Latin America representative for the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, which held the commemoration under the auspices of the Henry Jackson Society, explained that an investigation into Mr Nisman’s death is one of four parallel cases in Argentina emanating from the AMIA bombing.
Former president Carlos Menem, in office when the bombing took place, together with former Judge Juan Jose Galeano, among others, are subject to trial for alleged cover-up of the crime; former president Cristina Kirchner and Foreign Minister Hector Timerman are due to be tried in the wake of a Memorandum of Understanding they signed with Iran, long held responsible for the terror attack on the AMIA building; and the case against the five remaining Iranian suspects has been re-opened.
The meeting was hosted in the House of Lords by Lord Trimble, a Nobel laureate for his work on the Northern Ireland peace process.
Argentine’s ambassador to the UK, Renato Carlos Sersale di Cerisano, read a message from the Argentine Foreign Minister, Jorge Faurie. He said: “Together with the bombing of the Israeli Embassy in 1992, these two attacks constitute the two major acts of international terrorism perpetrated in our country’s history… The Argentine government is fully committed to seeking justice on behalf of the victims…. to ensure that all those involved in the attack are brought before the Argentine courts…”
One of the most poignant contributions came from a survivor of the bombing, Anita Weinstein, who is AMIA’s director of its Documentation and Information Centre on Argentine Jewry and is a former director of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Argentina.
She told the audience: “It was a Monday in 1994, but it was not an ordinary Monday. It was a day which changed my life for ever. I was preparing the 100th anniversary of AMIA at the back of the building, when the explosion left me on an open ledge above the carnage below… I had become the target of hate, I, the daughter of Holocaust survivors”.
Even though the bombing happened 24 years ago, Ms Weinstein said, she was still determined to keep working for the Buenos Aires Jewish community. “I fought for justice. Once again, I chose life”.
Dr Gelblung revealed that only last week, one of the five Iranian suspects said to have been responsible for the bombing, had appeared in Russia, which has an extradition treaty with Argentina. But no arrests were made and the man returned to Iran without being detained.
QC Michael Caplan went through the legal options open to Argentina if any of the suspects were to visit countries with extradition treaties with it — including Britain.
Dr Shimon Samuels, director for international relations at the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, said he hoped that “this meeting can be a first step in the pursuit of justice and closure for the families of terror victims and survivors of terror worldwide.”
He added: “I am confident that if the perpetrators were to arrive in the UK, they would be apprehended and an arrest warrant issued by an Argentine judge would serve as a catalyst for their extradition.”