News 07 Apr 17

Strasbourg Rules Against Macedonia in Lustration Case

A former communist-era official in Macedonia, Petar Karajanov, has won his case against the state before the European Court of Human Rights.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
Petar Karajanov. Photo: Telma TV

In its second ruling against Macedonia's controversial lustration process, the Strasbourg court has ruled that Macedonian institutions deprived a communist-era official, Petar Karajanov, of a fair trial and violated his privacy by publishing his name before a final ruling was passed.

"Justice has prevailed after four years. But at the same time, I feel pain that I had to seek justice outside Macedonia and even sue my own country," Karajanov said after the verdict.

He said that he felt "fully satisfied" by the verdict and that, although he has the right to do so, he would not be asking Macedonia's Administrative Court to revisit his case.

The former member of the central committee of the now defunct League of Communists of Macedonia, SKM, and former head of the SKM branch in Skopje, contested the verdict against him back in 2013, shortly after the Lustration Commission pronounced him a spy and after the Administrative Court, to which he submitted a complaint, verified the ruling.

Karajanov said he felt targeted for having taken an open stand against the lustration process in Macedonia. He was among those who submitted a case to Macedonia's Constitutional Court, calling on it to scrap the lustration law passed in 2008.

"This ruling proves our several years-long claim that the Lustration Commission has been working as a mere instrument of the ruling parties in their open political battle against their political opponents and critics," the Macedonian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, which offered Karajanov legal aid, said after the ruling.

Karajanov also claimed that his case was based on another person's documents who had allegedly collaborated with the former communist secret services and who had the same name.

He pointed out several inconsistencies to back his claim.

Karajanov was born in 1936, for example, while the documents used by the the lustration commission referred to a person born in 1937. Karajanov also has no brother and never travelled to Sweden, as the documents used against him had alleged.

While Karajanov studied literature and lived in Skopje, the documents used against him alleged that he had studied English and lived in the town of Gevgelija.

Karajanov also claimed that his military service records show that, during the period that the commission said he was a collaborator, he served in the former Yugoslav People's Army, JNA, as a conscript.

This is the second ruling that a victim of the lustration process in Macedonia has contested and won in Strasbourg.

Last year, the former head of the Macedonian Constitutional Court, Trendafil Ivanovski, won his case against the state before the European Court of Human Rights.

The Strasbourg court ruled that Macedonia had broken Ivanovski's human rights by not giving him the right to defend himself before the commission, and by denying him access to the evidence being used against him.

At least ten other people are suing Macedonia in Strasbourg on similar grounds.

Macedonia followed in the steps of many former communist states that brought in lustration laws as a way of addressing past injustices by naming and shaming former collaborators with the communist secret police.

However, ever since the Lustration Commission started work in 2009, opposition parties, human rights NGOs and government critics have complained that the process was being abused to attack critics of the VMRO DPMNE party-led government.

In August 2015, after criticism from Brussels, the Commission said it was terminating the lustration process, starting from the beginning of 2016.

However, it decided to uphold the sanctions it had imposed on more than 200 lustrated persons, including the ban on anyone declared to be a former secret police collaborator from working in state institutions.

Since 2016, the Administrative Court has started annulling dozens of lustration decisions made by the commission and it has yet to decide on many others.

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