The Lustration Law: is it too late?
Without the Lustration Law many questions remain unanswered. There will be doubts, whispers, public secrets and slanders. But people who were imprisoned will never know the truth about who betrayed them and by whose orders they were persecuted.
The past will remain unresolved
The last few weeks we have again witnessed battles of political parties about lustration. But this immediately raises the question – whether the adoption of the law on lustration might be ideologically motivated at all? In Croatia only one side of the political spectrum still speaks about it as a possible option, the second one resolutely opposes it and as a result of this, the lustration law in Croatia still does not exist.
One of the questions which in recent days is dragging through the media is, is it too late to adopt The Lustration Law after twenty-five years of existence of the independent Croatian state. The answer is no, it is not too late; in fact, only the adoption of the lustration law closes the period of communism in full. This may sound very strange to the Croatian public as some already interpret that the period of communism in Croatia finished by itself since Croatia has been existing for a quarter-century so far. But the answer is again no; the period of communism did not end because lustration was not implemented. Sometimes, for the complete transformation of the system, and especially for the consciousness of people from communistic to democratic, in all segments of society, several generations are needed. The change will be seen perhaps in the second, maybe the third or even in the worst case, in the fourth generation of Croatian society. But it is important that the changes take place that Croatia does not remain in darkness and in the shadow of communism, because many questions will remain unanswered, there will be doubts, lawsuits for proving whether a person was in UDBA or cooperated with it and so on. These are all unnecessary court costs, unnecessary embarrassment, which makes possible to continue to spread the lies and untruths, until we find out the truth by opening the secret files. It is about a violation of human rights of persons who were imprisoned and persecuted in the communist system. They have every right to know the truth about who betrayed them and by whose orders they were persecuted and jailed. After all, how is it possible that Croatia still does not have the lustration law while almost all other post-communist countries have got it? How is this coincidence possible?
The drafting of the lustration law should be approached carefully, and should not be made just to adopt it. What is its objective? Only that, when it is implemented, people who violated human rights under communism, must be eliminated from public life of the Republic of Croatia, because they may affect the public by their public appearances. And that returns Croatia back in the past. Such persons should be prohibited to exercise public duties, and that should be regulated by this law.
Moving towards the truth
The time limit within which the law will be adopted does not matter, but its quality, purpose and effectiveness. Judging from the practice of countries which have the law, time period within which it was being created, is very different. Germany needed two years to create the draft of the law and its adoption, and in Poland the procedure itself lasted much longer, almost nine years, since the Constitutional Court twice overturned the law and returned it for changes.
Lustration procedure is generally very extensive and at the same time there is a great lack of knowledge in our society about it and the public mostly does not know what exactly lustration means. First of all, it is necessary to educate the public by maintaining round tables, public forums and similar events, and thus to inform the public about the concept of lustration and why it is necessary to adopt the law. After that it is necessary to draft the law and hold a public hearing on it. But all this will not make any sense unless there is a political will of the parties in power, which will decide whether to enter into the process of drafting of the law and it’s voting. Without the political will it is not possible to pass a law because in the regular procedures, as it is well known, it is Croatian Government who proposes laws, while Croatian Parliament adopts them. The ruling parties should be familiar with the fact that it is necessary to adopt the lustration law because without it country will not experience economic growth. Namely, all post-communist countries in which lustration was carried out, have experienced the economic boom. But it certainly should not be the main motivation. The essence of the whole procedure is reduced to the clearing of the past and moving towards the truth. Therefore, it should be necessary to establish an institution by the same law, in which all the documents found in the lustration proceedings, should be stored, regardless whether they are found and reported by private individuals or public bodies, therefore, anyone with the knowledge of their existence. Then, all secret files would be available to the public, of course, with some exceptions, which would also be prescribed by the law.
According to the same law, modelled after the Polish and German, it would be necessary to cover the period from World War II until 1989, which would also condemn the period of fascism and other totalitarian systems which existed in the area of today’s Croatia. From the foregoing it follows that “anti-fascist forces” in Croatia may be peaceful regarding the protection of their interests, because the same law will open all existing secret records covering the stated period and suspected persons from this period, if it would be possible due to the passage of time . It should be noted that, for example, in Germany after the conducted lustration, actually there were not many people who were punished with imprisonment in relation to the number of procedures that were conducted. Most people, who had violated human rights, as evidenced in the proceedings, were given a ban on holding public duties in the country. German law about the Stasi and their records is a very good example of the lustration law and the way it was carried out in Germany, and its importance for the country, as well as the importance of the Office of the Federal Commissioner for the Stasi files, which is extremely large. That would be a good model according to which lustration in Croatia could be implemented.
It’s amazing to what extent the current Croatian ruling parties somehow ignored European resolution on condemnation of totalitarian regimes. The Council of Europe adopted a 1481 resolution in 2006, which strongly condemned the massive violations of human rights by totalitarian communist regimes. There is also a European Parliament resolution on European conscience and totalitarianism adopted in 2009 on whose basis 23rd August was declared a Day of Commemoration for all the victims of these regimes. However, in the Croatian Legal System, there is only a declaration condemning the crimes committed during the totalitarian communist regime in Croatia from 1945-1990, which was passed in 2006, but there is no prohibition on the execution of public duties for people who had violated human rights in Croatia at that time or worked with the secret services of the former Yugoslavia, so there is no sanction for these persons.
Here it is necessary to cite Article 6 of the Resolution of the European Parliament: “The European Parliament regrets that twenty years after the collapse of communist dictatorships in Central and Eastern Europe, access to documents that are of personal relevance or are needed for scientific research is still unduly restricted in some Member States and calls for legal effort in all member States towards opening up archives, including those of the former internal security services, secret police and intelligence agencies, although steps must be taken to ensure that this process is not abused for political purposes. “It is obvious that political ruling parties have not exactly been especially interested in the passing of lustration law, although the European and international law says how much it is necessary to adopt such a law and how it is necessary to clear to the public the idea of what such a law brings. In Croatia, there is a great resistance of the Medias who should accompany the round tables and debates on that subject. In addition to the Glas Koncila and several portals, no one writes about the importance of lustration. It can hardly be a coincidence. Thus the debates on the issue remain on the sidelines, because media isolation makes them irrelevant.
The power of party discipline
Article 16 of the EP resolution states: “The European Parliament is convinced that the ultimate goal of disclosure and assessment of the crimes committed by the Communist totalitarian regimes is reconciliation, which can be achieved by admitting responsibility, asking for forgiveness and fostering moral renewal.” Croatian Social Democratic Party, as legal successor of the Communist party of Yugoslavia, still keeps archives and records of this party closed to the public, in which the insights may be obtained only with special permission and stating the precise reasons. They identify themselves as the party against lustration and declare the process obsolete, witch hunt and revenge, or at least its president, Mr. Zoran Milanović comes out in public by those words. However, off the record, even some members of the SDP also think it would be good to bring lustration law. This outlines in an interesting way, the state of political parties in Croatia, where some members think it would be good, but alone they cannot do anything, because there is party discipline. It is known that in every political party there is a Left and Right no matter of which is the political orientation of the party as a whole. Even in that a certain level of democracy is not yet reached, because as a country, we are still learning what democracy is. Twenty-five years is not enough to reach a higher level of democracy, precisely because a period of communism in Croatia is still not closed. It will be completed not by mere passing of the law on lustration, but only after its implementation.