A reader recently sent in an inquiry about the case of Argentina’s scandal involving the death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who was shot just one day prior to his scheduled appearance at Argentina’s Congress.  As reported here, Mr. Nisman had filed a criminal complaint that accused Argentine President Cristina Kirchner, Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman and others of conspiring to cover up a probe into Iran’s alleged involvement in the attack on a Jewish community center here that killed 85 people, the worst attack targeting Jews since World War II.

INTERPOL issued Red Notices for several individuals in connection with the attack, as was requested by Argentina’s National Central Bureau.  INTERPOL later issued a statement regarding its efforts to facilitate talks between the two countries to resolve the growing dispute surrounding the notices.

The reader’s inquiry focuses on the agreement that Argentina and Iran later reached:

 Dear Ms. Estlund,

I would very much appreciate your comments on the situation that arose in connection with the red notices requested by Argentina over Iranian nationals under investigation for bombing a Community center in Buenos Aires.

Several years after the red notices were accepted by Interpol, both countries signed a Memorandum of understanding (details here: http://www.viviendoutopias.com/wp-content/2013/03/anexo_II.pdf).

Recently, a prosecutor (who later appeared dead in yet to be determined circumstances) denounced that the Memorandum was actually a plot to exonerate the Iranian nationals through the lifting of the red notices.

The truth is the red notices were never lifted and Argentina never requested it, as Interpol itself declared.

Nonetheless, I read a piece in the news claiming that the communication to Interpol stated in item 7 of the Memorandum can be construed as a basis to allow Iran to request the red notices to be lifted (or suspended or softened in any way), even when no express instructions were given by Argentina.

What’s your opinion on this? Could the communication included in item 7 of the Memorandum have reasonably been intended to allow Iran to attempt to lift the red notices?

The information in item 7 states:

“This agreement, upon its signature, will be jointly sent by both ministers to the Secretary General of Interpol as a fullfillment of Interpol requirements regarding this case.”

Even without an agreement, Iranian officials were free to seek the removal of any Red Notice directly through INTERPOL. Whether INTERPOL agreed to remove the notices or not would depend upon INTERPOL’s view of the case, specifically whether the Red Notices were requested in violation of any of INTERPOL’s governing rules or texts.  Such a direct approach would not at all guarantee the removal of the notices.

The agreement, however, appears to have been directed more toward the two countries’ efforts to resolve the matter in a fashion that awarded each party something of value: Iran presumably wanted the Red Notices lifted, and Argentina wanted something from Iran.  Multiple media outlets have reported that Mr. Nisman said President Kirchner was working behind the scenes to protect the Iranians in return for oil, at a time when the South American country was in the midst of an energy crisis.

In the end, INTERPOL seems to have maintained its position of neutrality, as its constitution mandates.  The question of a resolution to the issues between Argentina and Iran appears to have been put off, at least in the short term, because of the Argentinan public’s outrage about the Kirchner administration’s handling of this case.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.