A senior Foreign and Commonwealth Office minister has said the suffering of Argentinian Jewish families who lost loved one in the 1994 AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires “has only intensified” with the failure to catch the killers.
Minister of State for Europe and the Americas Sir Alan Duncan made the comments at a commemorative event at the Argentine embassy on Wednesday.
“We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our Argentine friends and our friends from the Jewish community as we remember those 85 innocent lives which were cut tragically short and the hundreds of others which were irrevocably damaged,” he said.
“Very regrettably, their suffering has only been intensified by the knowledge that, a quarter of a century on, the culprits of this atrocity have still not been held to account. It was a hateful act of terrorism and an assault on the rights, freedoms and values that all of us hold dear.”
No-one has ever been convicted, but federal prosecutor Alberto Nisman alleged that the highest reaches of Argentinian government conspired with Iran to cover up its role in the attack in return for an oil deal. He died in mysterious circumstances hours before he was due to offer evidence in court in 2015.
Argentinian Ambassador Carlos Sersale di Cerisano appeared to go off-script on Wednesday by offering a “personal thought” to the embassy audience, saying: “Today we also remember [Nisman], we also seek justice for him and his family.”
The AMIA case has been an embarrassment for Argentina, and in March this year, former federal judge Juan José Galeano and spy chief Hugo Anzorreguy were sentenced to six years in jail for their part in the AMIA cover-up.
The sentences were handed down by a three-judge panel that has studied the case for four years, ruling that Judge Galeano had “concealed and violated evidence”.
Speaking to an audience that included Israeli Ambassador Mark Regev, Duncan said the embassy gathering was “the best response to those who seek to divide us” and “a testament to the resilience of Argentina’s Jewish community”.
Representing the British Jewish community, Board of Deputies’ senior vice-president Sheila Gewolb said it was “poignant” that the anniversary of the bombing had become a national event.
Gewolb added: “The investigation has taken far too long, although we are happy that it is now moving forward.”
She said Hezbollah remained “an imminent threat to Jewish and non-Jewish institutions alike… 25 years on it is time to understand and confront the danger Iran and its proxy Hezbollah pose”.
Gewolb thanked Duncan for the Government’s recent decision to ban Hezbollah in its entirety, adding: “The ban makes membership of this group, or supporting it, punishable by a jail sentence of up to ten years. It is a step Argentina should also consider and take.”