A last-minute change to the new draft Lustration Law, aimed at rooting out former police informants, allows people who were unaware that they were used as police sources to clear their names.
Skopje | Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic
If the law proposed by the ruling VMRO DPMNE party passes, the Lustration Commission, the government office tasked with carrying out lustration, will obtain powers to distinguish between informants who snitched on their compatriots knowingly and for profit and others who were unaware of being used.
“If there is no evidence that a person knowingly cooperated with the police, the [Lustration] Commission will now be able to clear his name, by stating clearly that he was not an informant," an MP from the ruling VMRO DPMNE party, Silvana Boneva, explained.
The draft, along with the latest addition, was adopted on Tuesday by parliament's Commission for Political Systems. The draft should soon be put for a vote in the chamber, where the ruling party has a majority.
Stojan Slaveski, dean at Skopje's Security and Criminalistics Faculty, says police were good at extracting information from people without their being aware of it, especially in the 1940s and 1950s, when the police surveillance culture was at its height.
“Secret police informants would trick the neighbours of a suspect through informal chats where they would reveal some incriminating data or gossip about their neighbour,” he says.
“These data, along with the name of the source, would later be recorded in the secret police file of the surveyed person although the source was never aware of it and had no intention of being a police snitch.”
Following the practice of many post-Communist countries, a law on purging former police informants from public office was passed in 2008 on the behest of Nikola Gruevski’s centre right VMRO DPMNE led government.
But the process came under fire from critics who accused the ruling party of using the law to target its opponents.
Under the law people who found to have been former collaborators are to be stripped of public office.
The Constitutional Court in March scrapped some key provisions of the law, reducing its scope. It ruled that it was unconstitutional to oblige people from professions including clergy, journalists, NGO activists and others to swear that they had never collaborated with the secret police.
It also shortened the time span of the law. The court ruled that that it may cover only the Communist period from 1945 to 1991 and not the period after the country gained independence from Yugoslavia and became a democratic society.
This prompted the ruling party to propose a new law on lustration, which they said would address any remaining errors and make the whole lustration process more transparent.
The Commission has so far pronounced over 30 people as former informants. However, the Administrative Court in Skopje in May accepted the appeals of 15 of them and scrapped the decisions of the Commission concerning them.