Editorial |

Israel Must Extradite Teodoro Gauto, Wanted for Crimes in Argentina's 'Dirty War'

Gauto has been living in Israel since 2003, and despite two Interpol notices Jerusalem has refused to revoke his citizenship and allow him to be questioned

FILE PHOTO: Pepa Pussek holds a picture of her son Juan Carlos Galvan, one of the victims of Argentina's 'dirty war,' in Cordoba, Argentina, Wednesday Dec. 22, 2010.
FILE PHOTO: Pepa Pussek holds a picture of her son Juan Carlos Galvan, one of the victims of Argentina's 'dirty war,' in Cordoba, Argentina, Wednesday Dec. 22, 2010. Credit: AP

Argentina’s internal security ministry this week offered a $30,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Teodoro Anibal Gauto. He is wanted for questioning on crimes against humanity — murder, torture and the abduction of minors — in the “dirty war” during the 1976-83 military dictatorship. But Gauto’s whereabouts are known. He fled to Israel in 2003, and according to Interior Ministry records lives here under the name Yosef Carmel.

Gauto served as a civilian in Argentina's military intelligence Battalion 601, which was notorious for its involvement in abductions and murders.

In 2003, Interpol issued an international arrest notice on a criminal matter (suspicion of bank fraud), which was in effect until 2009, when the statute of limitations expired on those allegations. In 2011 a second Interpol “red notice” was issued for Gauto’s alleged role in the crimes of the junta. Israel is ignoring the warrant. In 2015, Gauto was exposed by journalist Shlomo Slutzky on the Israel Channel 2 investigative program “Mabat Sheni.” He admitted having worked for the Argentine military but denied any involvement in crimes against humanity and claimed all he did was to classify left-wing operatives and build cases against them.

Slutzky, one of whose relatives was abducted and murdered in the “dirty war,” petitioned the High Court of Justice to extradite Gauto to Argentina. He argued that Gauto, who was granted Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return because he wife is Jewish, obtained that citizenship fraudulently because he did not disclose the investigations and pending legal proceedings in Argentina. As a result, Slutzky argued, Gauto’s citizenship should be revoked and he should be deported.

The state agreed that Gauto obtained his citizenship by deception, but decided against revoking it on grounds that during his 14 years in Israel, Gauto/Carmel has committed no crimes. This position is puzzling and conveys the distorted message that the Law of Return grants immunity to criminals.

On Sunday there will be another High Court hearing, in which the state will submit classified information to the court. Israel’s ties with the junta were public and included reciprocal visits by officials. The state, however, refuses to release documents describing the arming and training of the junta. What is it hiding from the Israeli and Argentine peoples?

At a time when Argentina is facing its past and putting the junta criminals on trial, Israel insists on protecting Gauto and ignoring the fact that his citizenship was obtained through fraud. And this is happening even as it doesn’t hesitate to expel asylum seekers.

The High Court of Justice should help the state to assist the investigation in Argentina in any way possible. Alternately, it should to instruct the interior minister to launch proceedings to revoke Gauto’s citizenship, facilitating his extradition to Argentina for questioning on his role in the military dictatorship’s crimes.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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