Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

Omid, a memorial in defense of human rights in Iran
One Person’s Story

Monica Nudel


Age: 36
Nationality: Argentina
Religion: Judaism
Civil Status: Unknown


Date of Killing: July 18, 1994
Location of Killing: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Mode of Killing: Bombing

About this Case

Ms. Monica Nudel was one of 85 victims of the AMIA (Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina) bombing that took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina on July 18, 1994. At approximately 9:05 in the morning, a van containing 275 kilograms of explosives detonated on Noreguy Street, destroying the headquarters of AMIA and damaging surrounding buildings, while also injuring 151 people. The victims included passersby and occupants of the surrounding buildings. AMIA, a mutual aid society, was one of the most visible Jewish organizations in Argentina. It was the largest bombing in the history of Argentina and the deadliest attack on Jews since the end of World War II. The bombing came on the heels of a similar attack against the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in March of 1992, which killed 29 people.

Ms. Nudel was an active woman. She was sociable and funny, but also cherished her independence. She worked in her sister’s store as a saleswoman, but preferred to walk around the city to conduct personalized sales. She was walking around the Pasteur Street neighborhood on the morning of the 18th.

Ms. Nudel is in Omid because of the overwhelming evidence linking Iran to the bombing. The facts surrounding the bombing are contained in the report of the official investigation, “Unidad Fiscal de Investigación: Causa Amia”, October 25, 2006, Ministerio Público de la Nación (Fiscal Investigation Unit: AMIA). The Argentine government’s finding were confirmed when INTERPOL authorized the issuance of arrest warrants for six of the suspects involved, including a number of high-ranking Iranian officials. The six individuals were Imad Fayez Mughniyah, Ali Fallahian, Mohsen Rabbani, Ahmad Reza Asghari, Ahmad Vahidi and Mohsen Rezai. Fallahian was Iran’s Minister of Intelligence during this time period, while Rezai was head of the Revolutionary Guards.*

After the bombing, the Argentine government launched an investigation led by Judge Jose Galleano. From the outset, the investigation was woefully short of resources and governmental support. Though Galleano eventually charged several people with the bombing, his investigation was ineffective and marred by so many irregularities that the most prominent victims’ group, Memoria Activa, filed suit with the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights of the Organization of American States on July 16, 1999, accusing the Argentine government of failure to prevent the bombing and abdicating its responsibilities to the victims to pursue justice in the case. This was followed with Galleano’s removal from the case in 2004. Though Iran has used Galleano’s dismissal as confirmation that its role in the bombing was fabricated as part of a cover-up, the evidence clearly illustrates that Galleano’s motive was not to frame Iran, but to prevent a thorough investigation that would bring to light unflattering facts concerning corruption within the highest reaches of Argentina’s government. After Galleano’s removal, Alberto Nisman was brought in as the chief investigator. Starting anew with greater resources and increased support from President Néstor Kirchner, Nisman was able to conduct an investigation thorough and credible enough to obtain INTERPOL approval for international arrest warrants.

Iran’s primary motivation was Argentina’s decision to stop nuclear aid to Iran and reorient its foreign policy towards the United States (which included sending warships in support of the United States-led coalition in the first Gulf War). Other contributing factors were Argentina’s ineffectual response to the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, and Syrian anger over Argentina’s decision to end cooperation on a joint missile program (which helps explain Hezbollah’s role in the bombing, since Lebanon’s Hezbollah operates under Iran and Syria’s control). According to the investigations, the decision to carry out the bombing was taken at the highest levels of the Islamic Republic. A special committee consisting of Supreme Leader Ali Kamenei, President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Intelligence Minister Ali Fallahian, and other high-ranking officials, met in Mahshad, Iran on August 14, 1993 to authorize and plan the bombing. Overall responsibility for the operation was conferred upon Fallahian and Ahamad Vahidi, commander of a special branch of the Islamic Republican Guards.

The bombing was carried out in Argentina by a group of Hezbollah agents with the help of Iranian diplomats stationed at the embassy in Buenos Aires. The Hezbollah operatives, led by Imad Mughnieh, arrived in Buenos Aires with fake European passports on July 1, 1994. A flurry of phone calls from the airport traced them to Foz de Iguazu in the Tri-Border Area, a loosely governed region bordering Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay, that has become a danger point for terrorism. From the evidence gathered, two Iranian diplomats in Buenos Aires actively assisted Hezbollah. Mohsen Rabbani, who was in charge of the operation, was Iran’s newly appointed cultural attaché at the embassy (though he had been in Argentina for eleven years, he was bestowed diplomatic immunity only in March) and was in charge of logistics for the operation. Aiding him was Ahmad Asghari, the 3rd Secretary at the embassy and a member of the Revolutionary Guard.

In procuring a vehicle for the bombing, Rabbani turned to José Ribelli, a member of the Buenos Aires Provincial Police. Aside from his law enforcement position, Ribelli operated a lucrative car theft ring. He, in turn, used the services of Carlos Telledin to find a suitable vehicle, which turned out to be a white Nissan Trafic. The suicide driver was Ibrahin Hussein Berro, a member of Hezbollah from Lebanon who had arrived in Argentina with Mugniyeh.

Iran’s involvement in the bombing follows a pattern of past behavior. Iran was the catalyst behind the bombings of the Marine and French barracks in Beirut in 1983, and the bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996. Iran also had a hand in a string of bombings that rocked Paris in 1986. One of the main stated aims of the bombers was to pressure the French government into releasing Anis Naccache, a Lebanese national imprisoned for the 1980 botched assassination attempt of former Prime Minister Shapour Bakhtiar, which resulted in the murder of two French citizens. Naccache was unexpectedly released from prison in 1990 for “reasons of state” and returned to Iran. Additionally, Iran is believed to have played a role in the assassination of at least 162 dissidents around the world.

The AMIA bombing was more than just a heinous act of terrorism; it was also a crime against humanity. Though often viewed in connection with armed conflicts, the concept of crimes against humanity has progressed in recent years to include incidents like the AMIA bombing. This evolution has been led by recent war crimes tribunals in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and the development of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Under the ICC’s Rome Statute, to qualify as a crime against humanity an act must:
(1) involve the commission of a specified act (e.g., murder, rape, enslavement);
(2) be committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack;
(3) be directed against a civilian population; and
(4) be committed with knowledge of the attack (Rome Statute Art. 7).
The AMIA bombing satisfies all four requirements. It was the continuation of a decades-long policy of the Islamic Republic to use terror as a tool to silence critics and coerce foreign governments into altering their behavior towards Iran. The Islamic Republic’s record of extra-judicial violence, including assassinations and bombings, has also been well-documented in newspaper articles, books, and court cases spanning many years and several continents. The AMIA operation was not the work of an individual or rogue group of officials acting alone. It was the product of meticulous planning and logistics, approved at the highest reaches of the Iranian government.

In viewing the AMIA bombing through this broader prism, one recognizes that Ms. Nudel was not the victim of a violent, yet random act of violence. She was another casualty of an unending and bloody campaign by the Islamic Republic of Iran to silence its critics and further its foreign policy goals.

*Aside from Argentine prosecutor Nisman’s official investigation and findings, numerous newspaper and magazine articles, court cases, scholarly articles, and books have brought to light different aspects of this case. A partial list of the sources includes: “US Expanding Efforts to Block Terrorist Funds in Latin Region,” New York Times, December 21, 2002; “The Tehran Connection,” Time Magazine, March 21, 1994; Ram, “Crushing the Opposition: Adversaries of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Middle East Journal, Vol. 46, No. 3 (Summer 1992); Magnus Ranstorp, Hizb’allah in Lebanon: The Politics of the Western Hostage Crisis; and Peterson v. Iran, 264 F. Supp. 2d 46, 33 (2003 U.S. District Court).(Lawsuit in federal court filed by survivors of 1983 Marine barracks bombing in Beirut. In 2007, the government of Iran was found responsible for the attack and liable for money damages.)

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