Human rights organizations, members of the Israeli parliament and representatives of the Argentinean-Jewish community have joined forces to demand that Israel extradite alleged Argentine war criminal Teodoro Anibal Gauto. According to Interpol’s website, Gauto is wanted for crimes against humanity, including murder, torture and abductions during Argentina’s military dictatorship from 1976 until 1983.
Israel’s Interior Ministry has until June 10 to respond to a Supreme Court deadline to determine whether to pursue legal measures against Gauto.
Gauto worked for Argentina’s military intelligence unit, compiling files on the junta’s political opponents. He also is accused of having served as a guard at La Cacha, a notorious secret detention center where the regime tortured political prisoners.
Last week a public conference was held in Temple “Beit Daniel” in Tel Aviv with the participation of parliamentarians Tamar Zandberg (Chairwoman of Meretz) and Dov Khenin (Hadash – Joint List) who gave speeches in solidarity with the Argentinian Junta victims. They also intended to raise awareness not only of Gauto’s story but also to apply pressure on the far-right governing coalition ahead of the upcoming June 10 deadline. “Israel must extradite suspected Argentine war criminal,” said MK Khenin.
In 2003, Gauto immigrated to Israel and obtained citizenship under the Law of Return after marrying a Jewish woman. Shortly thereafter, Interpol issued an international warrant for his arrest, to which Israel has yet to respond. Gauto eventually changed his name to Yosef Carmel. Journalist and documentary filmmaker Shlomo Slutzky, who reported his findings on Channel 1’s investigative program “Mabat Sheni”, exposed Gauto’s history a few years ago. “It was very easy to find Gauto in Israel,” Slutzky, who attended the public conference in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, told journalists. Slutzky, a relative of a physician who was abducted in La Plata city and killed by the Argentinean dictatorship, added that he recently traveled throughout Argentina to gather impressions on the possibility of Gauto’s extradition.
Slutzky originally filed a petition to Israel’s Supreme Court in 2016 to have Gauto extradited based on the Interpol warrant, as well as for having lied on his immigration form about his criminal past. Last December, Israel decided against taking recourse, arguing that Gauto had not committed any crimes during his fifteen years in the country. The Supreme Court, however, did not accept the state’s decision and ruled that it reconsider its position by June 2018.
“Israel doesn’t have an extradition agreement with Argentina and Israel cannot extradite someone without filing charges first,” Attorney Itay Mack, a Jerusalem-based human rights lawyer, explained. “But if Israel were to revoke his citizenship it would solve the problem very easily.” “Even if he only wrote files on people, at that time during the junta these files were death sentences for people,” Mack said. “People were kidnapped just because of their political views.”
Mack, who in the past has worked on cases involving Israeli arms sales to dictatorships around the world, said he believes this time around the Israeli government will move forward with the case. “After we filed a petition with the Supreme Court in 2016, Gauto subsequently had two meetings with the Ministry of Interior and Israeli authorities agreed with us that he had lied when he entered Israel in his formal declaration,” he said.
The Communist Party of Israel (CPI) issued last December a statement calling for Israel to extradite Gauto to Argentina where he is wanted for crimes he allegedly committed during that country’s “Dirty War” waged by the pro-imperialist military dictatorship against its own citizens.