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Mr. GEJDENSON. The Argentinian Government was successful in enacting a law to gain cooperation from defendants in order that they may be able to place pressure on some of those lower down in the operation to get people higher up. They have passed that. This would commend them for that. It recognizes the continued efforts of the Administration. This has been a bipartisan and legislative area of cooperation in trying to press for a resolution of this issue. I move the amendment.
Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Is there debate on the amendment?
Chairman GILMAN. I thank the distinguished Ranking Member from Connecticut for his amendment to H. Res. 531. I support this. It is an excellent amendment. It serves to properly acknowledge positive efforts of both the Argentine Congress and our President. Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. The question is on the amendment. All in favor, say aye. All against, say no.
The ayes appear to have it. The amendment is adopted.
Chairman GILMAN. Madam Chairman, I want to commend the gentlelady from Florida, Ms. Ros-Lehtinen, and the bipartisan group of cosponsors of this resolution for ensuring that our Congress properly marks the unhappy occasion of the sixth anniversary of the 1994 terrorist bombing of the AMIA Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires.
I have long been concerned about seeing that this heinous crime is resolved and that those responsible are brought to justice. At my suggestion, the Argentine Government created a $2 million reward program to help obtain information to resolve this act of terrorism.
Last year, the Argentine Congress passed important legislation that allows investigating Judge Juan Jose Galeano to engage in plea bargaining. Nevertheless, a trial of the Argentinian citizens charged with involvement in this terrorist bombing has, regrettably, been much delayed. When the local trial does get under way, I urge the Argentinian authorities to invite international observers to witness the trial proceedings.
Six years is much too long to let time pass without justice. Justice delayed is no justice at all.
During his recent visit to the United States, President Fernando de la Rua made a point of visiting the Holocaust museum and issuing a public apology for the role that Argentina played in harboring Nazis after World War II.
President de la Rua said, "Today, before you and before the world, I want to express my most sincere pain and to ask forgiveness that this happened, that Nazis were hidden among us."
I believe in President de la Rua's sincerity. We thank him for this important statement.
Solving this awful crime and bringing those responsible to justice is the proper way to bring healing to the still-open wounds in Argentina. Accordingly, I urge our colleagues to join in supporting this resolution by the gentlelady from Florida.
Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Thank you so much, Mr. Gilman.
Are there further amendments on the resolution?
Mr. GILLMOR. Madam Chairman, I have an amendment at the
Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. The clerk will read the amendment.
Ms. BLOOMER. Amendment offered by Mr. Gillmor.
Strike the fourth clause of the preamble.
Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. The clerk will distribute the amendment.
[The amendment appears in the appendix.]
Mr. GILLMOR. Madam Chairman, first, I want to commend you for offering this resolution.
This was a heinous crime. I think the United States as well as the Argentine Government ought to be pursuing every avenue that we can to bring those culpable to justice, whether in Argentina or in other places of the world. In fact, I support the resolved part of this resolution.
This, like all resolutions, has two parts. The meat of it, the resolved part which condemns the attack, urges the government to punish those involved and urges our President to bring this up in bilateral negotiations.
The amendment I have doesn't delete anything in the resolved clause, but it does delete one of the whereas clauses which strikes me as possibly not accurate and is simply a gratuitous slap at a democratic government and a friend of ours, the Argentinian Government. I think most people would read it as implying there was some type of government personnel involvement, for which there is, based on what I have been informed by the State Department, no evidence.
I did contact the State Department after reading this resolution, got ahold of them today, as to their view. They oppose that language.
I would also point out that an identical resolution was introduced in the U.S. Senate and with good reason the Senate removed this clause that I am proposing that we remove. I think what the evidence is, is that there were some former security personnel, which I guess we would call rogue cops, who were involved in this attack. I think about the reaction that most Americans would have if we had a foreign parliament condemning us if we had some rogue cops commit a crime against Americans. I think we would be greatly offended, and rightly so; and I think it is very reasonable to expect that the Argentinians will have exactly the same kind of reaction when we do the same thing.
This would eliminate what is potentially offensive language which both the U.S. State Department and the Argentine Embassy have reported they feel would be of concern to their government. I think we also have to remember that these acts didn't occur even when this government was in control. You have a democratic country, you have a new government which has been very strong in promoting antiterrorism, and I think it is only reasonable that we delete this, which leaves intact all of the operative language of the resolution which is all the resolved clause. I would ask for approval of the amendment.
Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Thank you Mr. Gillmor.
Is there further debate on the amendment?
Mr. Gejdenson is recognized.
Mr. GEJDENSON. I would oppose the amendment. I think the language in no way says anything against the elected government of
Argentina. It references particularly things that have been reported publicly and indicates that the judge indicted three high-ranking provincial police officers. It is well known that there has been this terrible situation in Argentina for years, during the years of the disappearances where people in official positions in the military and police were involved in terrible acts against their own citizens. There are at least those that are arguing that these policemen who are now on trial have been one of the reasons that it hasn't moved as rapidly as it might.
If you read the section, it doesn't say we are condemning the Argentinian Government. As a matter of fact, I added language that lauds the elected government of the President. What this says is evidence indicates the bombing couldn't have been carried out without local assistance from elements of the Argentinian security forces and some of which are reported to be sympathetic to antiSemitic positions.
There is certainly ample evidence of that when you look at what happened in the act. It wasn't a general attack on the public. It was an attack on Jewish people. It doesn't attack the government. I think we ought to keep the language and get the message across that we want this, after so many years, to be resolved.
Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Thank you so much, Mr. Gejdenson.
Is there further debate?
Mr. Gilman is recognized for 5 minutes.
Chairman GILMAN. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
With respect to the amendment offered by the gentleman from Ohio, let me note that, back in September 1995, the Committee conducted an extensive hearing with regard to the AMIA bombing in Argentina. We took a considerable amount of evidence.
We have also met with the presiding judge who came up to Washington to meet with our Committee. We also met in Argentina with the presiding judge and met with a number in the prosecutorial role in Argentina.
Of the 20 to be tried in the bombing, 15 were policemen. Of the 20, 5 are considered necessary to the bombing, and I quote from their charges, and face charges of murder, conspiracy and corruption. Among those charged with the bombing was the provincial inspector. Among the charged were three former policemen and a former detective. It was discovered that the former head of the provincial police force car-theft unit had received 22 million pesos a week prior to the bombing.
That is just one example of how local corruption and international terrorism have been intertwined. Large amounts of contraband, including explosives and detonators, were discovered in the homes of several of the retired army officers. Among those being held on charges is a police sergeant with ties to an extremist party whose leader was once quoted as saying, and this quote came out of Time Magazine of December 18, 1995, "It is easier to find a green dog than an honest Jew."
I submit to my colleague from Ohio that the trial, and the local connection to the bombing including members of the security forces, is scheduled to begin by early next year. This trial of the local connection, which includes persons who were part of Argentina's security forces, is critically important. I therefore reluctantly
cannot support the amendment offered by our good colleague from Ohio, Mr. Gillmor.
Mr. GILLMOR. Will the gentleman yield?
Chairman GILMAN. I will be pleased to yield.
Mr. GILLMOR. Has anyone-because I attempted to and did not have the opportunity because of the short time before this resolution came up has anyone asked the Argentine Government their view of this language? Because I hear this indirectly from the State Department. It seems to me that, as the International Relations Committee, if we are going to make a policy statement on international relations, we ought to be doing it with all the facts. Has anybody asked what specifically was the reaction?
Mr. LANTOS. Will the gentleman yield?
Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Gilman will yield to Mr. Lantos.
Mr. LANTOS. I want to be sure I understand the question of my good friend.
I think it is self-evident that when you ask the government of China whether in fact they are engaged in human rights violations, they will say no. When you ask the Government of the Soviet Union whether they were engaged in creating a gulag, their answer is no. It is self-evident that the government will not proclaim that its security forces are guilty of participating in the mass murder of 84 utterly innocent men, women and children because they happened to be Jews.
So I am puzzled at the gentleman's request as to whether the government has been asked. The government will clearly deny.
That is not the issue. The facts are that, over a long period of time, partly because Argentina has provided safe haven to a vast number of Nazi war criminals, there has been a very significant anti-Semitic sector of society which has deeply penetrated Argentine police and security forces. The fact that in 6 years they have been unable to get to the bottom of this outrage, that a community center was blown up with the largest single loss of Jewish life since the end of the Second World War ought to be a clear indication that the security forces are not very anxious to get to the bottom of this affair.
Argentina will not like this statement, just as other governments don't like statements which point out the profound flaws. This is a fairly significant flaw. This was a community center and a child center where large numbers of civilians were attending various functions. Children were at a child care center, and the place was blown up.
The record at the time clearly indicated-as I walked in, I heard the gentleman from New York quote from the record, that there was, in fact, evidence of members of the security forces being participants, facilitators of this activity. I think it would ill behoove this Committee not to call a spade a spade and where there are large-scale race crimes perpetrated in a friendly nation in the hemisphere to shy away from stating this.
I thank the gentleman for yielding.
Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. I would like to recognize myself for 5 minutes on this very point.
Data indicates that this bombing could not have been carried out without local assistance from elements of the security forces of Ar
gentina. These and all clauses of the resolution are supported by official statements by legal documents, and multiple news reports. The President of Argentina, President de la Rua, acknowledged the internal connection and other issues in the bombing case in March of this year during a press conference. We welcome President de la Rua's political will, as he has demonstrated in his administration to pursue all leads to their ultimate conclusion.
Hacoba Timmerman, who is a jurist and an author, said, and I will quote from this news report, it is apparent why international terrorists twice would choose Argentina for their attacks on Jewish interests. He says, our large community of Jews is the first part, said Timmerman, whose highly publicized imprisonment and torture during the military regime makes him Argentina's best known Jew. He says, and we have a large organization of police eager to accept the job of carrying out attacks like those.
In the Chicago Tribune of January 26, 1997, it says, in trying to unravel the bombing that killed 86 people, investigators discovered last week that a high-ranking former officer who ran the provincial police forces car-theft unit received $2.5 million the week before the bombing. In 1996 the provincial inspector was charged in the bombing. Now however, said Sergio Reanon, editor of a Buenos Aires daily, the two issues, local corruption and foreign terrorism, have been intertwined.
In the Commercial Appeal newspaper in Memphis, raising the specter of anti-Semitism in Argentina security forces, authorities Wednesday charged three police officers and a former detective as accomplices in the terrorist bombing, charged with providing the van that was used in the bombing. Legal documents prepared by the attorneys for the victims and based on case files and evidence state that suspects were created for the upcoming trial and false leads provided by certain elements of the security forces of Argentina.
I believe that this whereas clause is very clear, and we understand that the new Administration has been cooperative, and we welcome that strong political will. I hope that the gentleman's amendment will not be agreed to by the Members of our Committee.
Is there further discussion on the amendment?
Chairman GILMAN. Madam Chairman, I am going to ask that our assistant, Mr. Mackey, present a copy of the report of our hearing on terrorism with regard to the AMIA bombing in Argentina dated September 28, 1995.
Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Without objection.
Chairman GILMAN. I think my good colleague may find this to be informative.
Is there further discussion?
Mr. ROHRABACHER. I rise in opposition to this amendment.
I am really sorry that our colleague actually moved forward with the amendment, because I think when he finds out what is really going on down in Argentina and the facts behind this case that he will regret having to move forward.