News 29 Nov 12

Macedonian Lustration Endangering Rights, Panel

The lustration process is being conducted contrary to Constitutional Court rulings and is violating human rights, a round table in Skopje organized by the Open Society-Macedonia foundation heard.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

“Lustration is hampering human rights and undermining [Macedonia's] security system” by exposing an informants' network, Vladimir Pivovoarov, a law professor at FON University, told the panel.

Macedonia’s parliament passed a new lustration law in June, aimed at addressing past injustices stemming from politically motivated judicial proceedings and rooting out former police informants.

The ruling VMRO DPMNE party of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski insisted on adopting a new law after the Constitutional Court in March scrapped key provisions from the 2008 law, narrowing its time span and the range of professions subjected to checkups.

In March, the Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to oblige 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 time span of the law that was previously applicable until 2019. 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.

Former speaker of parliament Stojan Andov, who proposed the original 2008 law, which was later amended to suit the ruling party, said his intentions had been honest.

“The goal then [in 2008] was to increase the democratic capacity of institutions” by lustrating only current office-holders who might have been informants for the former regime, Andov said, recalling that the law was originally backed by all parties in parliament.

“Now we have a new law… voted through only by the ruling parties, that contradicts with the decisions of the Constitutional Court,” Andov added.

The new law allows lustration to be applied until 2006, which is when a public information access law was adopted. It also again envisages lustration of journalists, NGO activists and others.

“The law has now deviated from its main goal and instead of cleansing office holders we are now cleansing the entire nation," Cedomir Damjanovski, member of the Lustration Commission, said.

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Skopje law professor Biljana Vankovska said that one key weakness in the lustration process was that it is being carried out by “weak, undemocratic and politically influenced” institutions.

“In the name of justice we are committing new injustices… and producing new victims [from the ranks of lustrated persons]… which spells the death of the principle of rule of law,” Vankovska said.

Panelists also expressed doubt about the validity of some of the documents on which the Commission has pronounced people to be ex-spies.

“From my experience in the security forces, I know that many operatives were adding stuff to their reports that was not true, naming informants they never met… and now we pronounce people as spies based on those documents,” Aleksandar Dinevski, a retired senior intelligence officer, said.

Jasmina Golubovska, from the Macedonian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, recalled that in September the committee filed an initiative to the Constitutional Court to suspend the new Lustration Law.

“The Court has not addressed our initiative for quite some time and we are worried about it,” she said.

Some of the people who have already been pronounced former informants also made their views known.

The former head of the Constitutional Court, Trendafil Ivanovski, called the lustration process a “caricature” and a “permanent means for managing all those who are not to the government’s liking”.

He was among the first to be pronounced a former collaborator with Yugoslav intelligence services, in 2010. He denied the charge and said he had been a victim of police surveillance rather than an informant, adding that he was being framed.

He said he was being targeted out of “revenge against the Constitutional Court because we annulled around 50 to 60 government law provisions a year”, adding that “now the Court is silenced” by the election of new judges and by auto-censorship.

In an emotional address, a retired radio journalist, Mustafa Spahiu, said that he and his family were distressed when he was recently pronounced an informant and accused of spying on fellow journalists.

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

“When I buy groceries in the marketplace people now talk behind my back… All I want is moral support! I am not a collaborator but a man raised to believe in honesty!” he said.

A special publication marking relevant events, statements and newspaper articles related to the lustration process, called "Macedonian Lustration (1999-2012) - Application of Lustration Laws", was presented at the event.

“This is our attempt to urge relevant institutions to be more transparent in the process,” Nada Naumovska, from Open Society, said.

Organizers expressed regret that representatives of the ruling parties, the head of the Lustration Commission, Tome Adziev, as well as of other institutions directly involved in the process, although invited, did not attend.

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