After several months’ delay, Macedonia’s constitutional court is to deliberate challenges to the country’s controversial lustration law, aimed at rooting out former police collaborators.
Macedonia's constitutional court
Hearings on the constitutionality of the lustration legislation will start next Wednesday, said the head of the court, Branko Naumoski.
“The delay in the case is due to health and personal reasons, although the case should have been put on the agenda at least several months ago,” Naumoski said on Thursday, without being more specific about the reasons.
The law, aimed at exposing secret police collaborators during Communist rule and afterwards, was adopted in parliament in June last year.
But in September, Macedonia’s Helsinki Committee for Human Rights and a retired lawyer, Stamen Filipov, contested 13 provisions of the legislation in two separate motions filed to the court.
“The motions mainly tackle the timespan of the law and the provisions that allow the publication of names of former collaborators without a court order, only with a decision by the Lustration Commission,” Uranija Pirovska, the head of the Helsinki Committee, told Balkan Insight at the time.
Macedonia’s main ruling party, VMRO DPMNE, pushed for the new legislation after the constitutional court scrapped 12 provisions of the previous lustration law earlier in 2012.
The court ruled that it was unconstitutional to oblige people from a wide range of professions, including clergy, journalists, NGO activists and others, to swear that they had not collaborated with the secret police either during the Communist period or afterwards.
It also shortened the timespan of the law that was previously applicable until 2019. The court ruled that it may only cover the Communist period from 1945 to 1991 and not the period after the country gained independence from Yugoslavia and became a democratic society.
The new law allows lustration to be applied until 2006, the year that public information access legislation was adopted. It still envisages the lustration of journalists, NGO activists, university professors and others, although under different premises.
One of the main novelties in the new legislation is the ability of the Lustration Commission, a state office tasked with enforcing the law, to publish names and dossiers on people deemed to have been collaborators.
The Helsinki Committee also contests this provision, arguing that the commission is being given the right of a court, which is also unconstitutional as no appeals procedure is envisaged.
Macedonia has followed in the steps of many former Communist states that have enacted similar laws as a way to address past injustices stemming from politically-motivated judicial proceedings.
But the legislation has been dogged by controversy, with critics accusing the government of misusing it to discredit prominent intellectuals known for their criticism of government policies.
This is the third time since 2008, when Macedonia’s first lustration law was adopted, that such legislation has been caught up in legal disputes before the constitutional court.