La Nacion: The successive deaths of Nisman

By The Editorial Board, 17 June 2015

It was a shock, weeks ago, when a video was broadcast with apparent gross carelessness and irregularities committed in the apartment of the late prosecutor Alberto Nisman by personnel of the security forces responsible for collecting evidence and dusting for fingerprints.

It is not the first time that, for those reasons, the work of prosecutor Viviana Fein, who is in charge of the investigation into the cause of death of the head of the AMIA Prosecution Unit, was questioned. That death occurred a few days after Nisman accused President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, Foreign Minister Hector Timerman and other officials and associates in the government of covering up for the Iranian accused by the AMIA bombing, using the indefensible agreement with the Iranian government.

It was the proximity between the complaint and the sudden death which encouraged suspicions that what at first appeared to be a suicide could be a homicide.

Nisman already dead, the shifting views of the President of Argentina deepened suspicions about what happened. The same result was achieved with successive court rulings that dismissed the criminal complaint by Nisman. No fewer suspicions were provoked by intelligence operations spread by the Government to put out aspects of the personal life of the AMIA prosecutor in public in order to discredit him and thereby insult his work.

While there were those who believed, inside and outside the judiciary, that Nisman’s complaint against the President lacked evidentiary support, there were also voices who defended it and considered that his work should not be dismissed without a thorough investigation being carried out.

From these columns we have argued that last position. A thorough and professional investigation was what should have happened because, regardless of the weakness or absence of the evidence offered, such a serious allegation of accusing the President and Foreign Minister of covering up for those accused of the most serious terrorist attack on Argentine soil could not be disposed of without first carrying out a serious and independent judicial review. The President should have been subject to this investigation without waiting for the different procedural steps that shut it down without all doubts have been cleared up.

For the same reason, it is imperative that the work carried out by Fein to determine the cause of Nisman’s death not leave any loose ends or areas of mystery as to what really happened.

In that sense, the early stages of the investigation revealed the most basic errors, beginning with the improper presence of Security Secretary Sergio Berni, who had nothing to do there since he is not a professional investigator dedicated to these tasks, but the political leader in that area. The presiding judge in the foreground and the prosecutor unduly tolerated his presence.

One must add to this the circumstances arising from the video broadcast on the program Journalism for All, where one can see the gross mistakes in the collection of evidence, such as the presence of many people far from the work being carried out; the absence of gloves or shoes that didn’t contaminate the scene; traces of hair that were not collected; a safe whose contents were reviewed by someone without gloves, among other striking circumstances. This was crowned with a move that could have irreversibly ruined a fundamental piece of evidence, such as cleaning the murder weapon in a scarcely professional manner.

Moreover, the further development of the investigation also seems reprehensible, since the procedures unfolding very slowly and the evidence or petitions for reports are suffering unexplained delays. It can not be attributed to the activity of the parties, in particular the complaints of the family. Modern doctrine dictates that all the procedural steps, while being lawful, are part of the constitutional rights of the participants in the process, being ultimately the prosecutor or the acting judge who are responsible for putting limits on any delaying tactic.

Meanwhile, many questions still remain on the presence of a free zone at the time of the event, some suspicious failures in the securty cameras in the building area and the inexplicable attitude of the bodyguards from the Federal Police, which despite their large numbers, did not act as they should have before or after the fact.

Beyond the outcome of the forensics, these facts lead us to reflect on the failures that usually occur in police investigations. Our country has a poor record of irregularities, errors and horrors that have condemned important court cases to remain mired forever in uncertainty or, at best, suffered significant lost time and often have produced impunity. Without going any further, and just to mention some resonant examples, it is what happened with the attacks on the Israeli embassy and the headquarters of the AMIA, committed in 1992 and 1994 respectively; the death in 2003 of Lourdes di Natale, former secretary of Emir Yoma, and the case of the young Candela Rodriguez in 2011.

These facts and many others that happen every day lead us to demand that the necessary reforms in police work be introduced, creating specialized bodies to act without political or administrative interference, with the necessary conditions for scientific work that can provide speed and reliability , and surrounded by a legal framework to ensure the legitimacy of procedures and efficiency. Otherwise, we cannot get to the truth, and justice will be seriously affected in its credibility due to the mistrust generated in these cases within the citizenry.

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