By Lucio Fernández Moores, 23 June 2015
Although the date had been set months in advance, the Federal Criminal Court of Cassation yesterday unexpectedly suspended the hearing in which it would announce its decision on the constitutionality of the controversial Memorandum of Understanding signed with Iran in 2013 related to the court case of the 1994 bombing of the AMIA.
Judicial sources attributed the suspension to disagreements among the judges who must resolve the crucial issue. These judges are the president of Cassation, Ana Maria Figueroa, and her colleagues Juan Carlos Gemignani and Luis María Cabral . The sources spoke of the possibility that the ruling will be further delayed to before the expiration of the terms of deputy judges in the court, which is on the 30th of this month.
The delay comes at a time when Kirchnerism recently passed a surrogate judges law that would allow the Judicial Council – where it has a majority – to appoint new surrogates in the Federal Court of Cassation. Until now, the appellate courts have designated surrogates from among the judges of the same court for existing vacancies in their respective jurisdictions. Cabral is one of the surrogates in that court; she is a judge from the Magistrates’ Association who has clashed heavily with the government. Faced with this situation, lawyers for the DAIA and AMIA asked for a prompt decision from Cassation.
“The postponement is a scandal. The parties cannot be summoned and then they suspend the hearing without an explanation. It creates suspicion and destroys the procedure. There is no doubt that the Memorandum is unconstitutional and that it is a high cost for the government’s foreign policy,” said Deputy Laura Alonso (PRO).
The Federal Court of Criminal Cassation has been studying the case for several months, after the appeal filed by State attorneys against the decision from last year, from Room I of the Buenos Aires Federal Criminal Court which declared the treaty, which was ratified by act of Congress, as unconstitutional, despite pressure from the government.
The argument from judges Eduardo Farah and Jorge Ballestero stated that the agreement violated various constitutional guarantees and that the domain of the judicial branch over a pending case in Argentina was trampled.
The unconstitutionality of the covenant had been petitioned by the authorities of the DAIA and AMIA themselves, supported by prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who was then found dead in his apartment this year under circumstances that the judiciary has not been able determine. Four days before appearing shot dead in his head, Nisman had denounced President Cristina Kirchner and Foreign Minister Hector Timerman, among others, for having forged the agreement to cover up for the Iranians accused he accused in the attack. In 2006, Nisman had blamed the highest authorities of the Iranian government in office in 1993 for the bombing, and with that he obtained international arrest warrants, which are still in force.
The Federal Court of Cassation can directly uphold the decision of the lower court- meaning it tacitly endorses that the treaty is unconstitutional- or revoke that decision through a new opinion and with new findings. The treaty – which was never ratified by the Iranian Parliament – included the possibility of an Argentine judge being able travel to that country to “interrogate” the suspects, after which a “special commission” would review the evidence.