Press Release

IACHR Laments Death of Prosecutor Alberto Nisman in Argentina

January 29, 2015

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) laments the death of the federal prosecutor Alberto Nisman and calls upon the State of Argentina to investigate and clarify the circumstances in which it took place, as well as the possible relationship with the court case on the bombing of the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA). Furthermore, the IACHR expresses its concern for the presumed threats received by Damián Pachter, journalist of the Buenos Aires Herald, who was allegedly the first reporter to inform about the death of the prosecutor.

According to publicly available information, Alberto Nisman, who worked as a prosecutor in the investigation of the bombing against AMIA in 1994, was found dead with a shot in the head on January 18, 2015. Alberto Nisman had been summoned to appear the following day before the National Congress regarding his accusations against high ranking authorities, for allegedly covering up the alleged perpetrators for the attack against AMIA.

The Commission calls upon the State to continue investigations on its own-initiative, guaranteeing that they be conducted with due diligence, thoroughly and impartially, and following the different lines of investigation into whether the death of Alberto Nisman could be related to his work as prosecutor. In this context, the Commission urges the State to take all necessary measures to guarantee the right to life, integrity and security of the defenders of human rights, including justice operators.

In addition, publicly available information indicates that on January 14, having been the first one to report on the death of prosecutor Nisman, journalist Damián Pachter of the newspaper “Buenos Aires Herald,” left Argentine territory arguing that he had been subjected to intimidations and did not feel safe. Subsequently, the official Twitter account of the Casa Rosada, headquarters of the Argentine Presidency, published the flight information of the journalist, which was provided by the state-owned airline Aerolíneas Argentinas to the official news agency Télam. The Government argued that they published it for the safety of the reporter, whose whereabouts were unknown at that time.

The Commission urges the State to take effective protective measures to guarantee the life and integrity of journalist Damián Pachter, to investigate the allegations, and to guarantee the work of the press in the context of the coverage of this case of great public interest.

As has established the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, “journalism can only be exercised freely when those who carry out this work are not victims or threats or physical, mental or moral attacks or other acts of harassment.” In this sense, government officials have a duty to clearly, publicly and firmly repudiate the attacks in reprisal for the exercise of freedom of expression, and refrain from making statements that may increase the vulnerability of journalist at particular situations of risk.

Survivors and relatives of the attack against AMIA have driven the search for justice, first in the domestic jurisdiction and then before the Inter-American System of Human Rights. On June 16, 1999, the IACHR received a petition, which is processed in the Commission under the number 12.204. In a hearing before the IACHR that took place on March 4, 2005, the State of Argentina acknowledged its responsibility for the violation of the rights to life, physical integrity, a fair trial and judicial protection in the case of the AMIA bombing. On that occasion, the State acknowledged “noncompliance with its duty to prevent [such an attack], in that it had failed to take appropriate and effective steps to try and avoid the attack, bearing in mind that two years earlier terrorists had attacked the embassy of Israel in Argentina.”  Furthermore, the State acknowledged at this hearing its “responsibility because the facts were concealed and there was a grave and deliberate failure to comply with the duty to investigate the unlawful act [which] resulted in justice clearly being denied.” The petition is still being processed by the Commission. For several years, the parties engaged in a process of friendly settlement. Since this process was not successful, the Commission applied article 36.3 of its Rules of Procedure, as had been requested by the parties, accumulating admissibility and merits to be studied simultaneously.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 006/15