INTERPOL chief proposes a way to unblock AMIA terror probe

3 November 2009

LYON, France – Under a proposal put forward by INTERPOL Secretary General Ronald K. Noble, INTERPOL is to offer to Argentinean and Iranian authorities that they meet together at INTERPOL's General Secretariat Headquarters in Lyon, France in order to consider having a third country handle the judicial proceedings relating to the 1994 terrorist bombing of the Israeli-Argentine Mutual Association (AMIA) centre in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and injured hundreds.  

Secretary General Noble’s proposal is part of INTERPOL’s continued efforts to facilitate a direct dialogue between Iran and Argentina regarding the AMIA terrorist attack.  In September, Mr Noble traveled to Teheran to meet with Iranian officials handling the AMIA matter, and on Monday he convened a meeting at INTERPOL's General Secretariat headquarters with a delegation led by the Argentinean prosecutor assigned to this case, Dr Alberto Nisman.

In this respect Secretary General Noble has been encouraged by both Iran and the Argentinean prosecutor to engage in a form of “shuttle diplomacy” in an effort to help both parties co-operate in this matter.

Both Argentinean and Iranian officials have very strong opinions on this matter which are frequently reported in the media.

"With regard to INTERPOL's position, I encourage anyone who wants to know our position on this very sensitive issue to be guided only by official statements issued by INTERPOL," stressed Secretary General Noble.

Each country has a right to characterize its position, but INTERPOL's position will only be declared by INTERPOL.

INTERPOL’s goal is to implement the decision of its General Assembly on this matter and to help break the deadlock in co-operation that exists between Argentina and Iran by putting forward a concrete proposal for both parties to consider and for the AMIA terrorist bombing investigation to move forward.

"We cannot help break deadlocks by criticizing either country," stated Secretary General Noble. 

By way of background, on 7 November 2007, INTERPOL’s supreme governing body, its General Assembly, approved the publishing of Red Notices (also known as international wanted persons notices) requested by the Argentinean National Central Bureau (NCB) for six individuals sought for arrest by Argentina in connection with the AMIA bombing.

"INTERPOL's General Assembly ratified the requests for the arrest of six Iranian nationals, and it is INTERPOL General Secretariat's obligation to carry out the will of the General Assembly. Thereafter, it is up to each individual country to follow its own national laws in deciding whether to comply with the request for the individuals in question. However, the General Assembly’s decision does not remove the presumption of innocence that each and every person charged with a crime should have – no matter the offence,” said Secretary General Noble. 

Through facilitating co-operation between Argentina and Iran, INTERPOL hopes to help the parties consider and deal with the concrete proposal by INTERPOL. 

“Both Iran and Argentina are valued members of INTERPOL and share a wide range of common concerns in our global efforts to combat terrorism and other serious transnational crimes, but we need to find a way to help them break the deadlock.  The victims and the families of this terrible terrorist attack deserve no less than INTERPOL’s best efforts to help Iran and Argentina move this case forward,” said Secretary General Noble.  

“INTERPOL’s strength is that when differences occur between our member countries, we always maintain our impartiality and keep our focus on enhancing international co-operation between police and law enforcement authorities.” 

"At this time however INTERPOL has no intention of asking any specific third country to help unblock this situation. Any such proposal would require both Iran and Argentina to be formally consulted and to agree. No such formal consultation or agreement has occurred as of yet," added the head of INTERPOL. 

INTERPOL cannot force any of its member countries to arrest the subject of a Red Notice. However, many member countries give INTERPOL Red Notices the legal basis to allow for the provisional arrest or detention of an individual. Some INTERPOL member countries do not allow their own nationals to be extradited to another country for any reason, but if presented with evidence sufficient to bring charges and convict a person they may prosecute nationals within their own judicial systems. 

Cases involving challenges to or disputes around the issuance of Red Notices are the rare exception, not the rule. Last year, 3,126 Red Notices were issued without controversy.