Undated handout pictures released by an Argentine court show (clockwise from top L) former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and seven former officials, Ali Fallahian, Ali Akbar Velayati, Moshe Rezai, Imad Fayez Moughnieh, Moshen Rabbani, Ahmad Reza Ashgari (or Mohsen Randjbaran) and Ahamad Vahidi. Argentine Federal Judge Rodolfo Canicoba Corral ordered international arrest warrants on November 9, 2006 for former Rafsanjani and eight others in connection with the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish community center. REUTERS./

By Lucila Sigal and Lucinda Elliott

 – A new ruling by Argentina’s highest criminal court has blamed Iran for the fatal 1994 attack against the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, declaring it a “crime against humanity” in a decision that paves the way for victims to seek justice, according to court documents released late on Thursday.

Tributes to the victims of the bombing of the Jewish Mutual in Argentina (AMIA) on the 28th anniversary of the bombing. REUTERS./

The judges ruled that the bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) – the deadliest of its kind in the country’s history that killed 85 people and left hundreds injured – was carried out by armed group Hezbollah and responded “to a political and strategic design” by Iran.

Representatives from Argentina’s Jewish community said the court ruling was “historic” and “unique” because it opened the door for the victims’ relatives to bring lawsuits against the Islamic Republic.

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President Javier Milei celebrated the ruling, saying this was a “significant step” that put an end to decades of “delays and cover ups,” in an official statement.

Argentina’s judiciary has long maintained Iran was behind the attack, but joint investigations and Interpol arrest warrants have led nowhere. Iran has refused to turn over citizens convicted in Argentina. Tehran has denied involvement.

Prosecutors in the report charged top Iranian officials and Hezbollah members with ordering the bombing as well as an attack in 1992 against the Israeli embassy in Argentina, which killed 22 people.

“The significance of these grave human rights violations for the international community as a whole invokes a state’s duty to provide judicial protection,” wrote Judge Mahiques who argued for legal reform.

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In 2013, Argentina and Iran signed a memorandum of understanding that sought to create a truth commission to investigate the attack, but the agreement never came into force and gave rise to a case against then President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, for an alleged cover-up operation.

Judge Mahiques highlighted the figure of former prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who was investigating the attack and was found dead at his home in January 2015 after fiercely criticizing Fernández de Kirchner for concealing Iran‘s alleged responsibility in the attack.

“(Nisman) was very clear that all these circumstances were at the origin of the attack on the AMIA, which, taken to its ultimate consequences, could have had palpable results before this ruling,” Mahiques told local radio on Friday.

(Reporting by Lucila Sigal and Lucinda Elliott; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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