Very few former state officials and politicians have submitted official statements declaring that they did not collaborate with the secret police, as the lustration process in Macedonia nears a deadline.
Despite penalties of up to €4,000 for missing the April 6 deadline, only about 200 out of thousands former politicians and officials have submitted the statements.
The slow response threatens to halt the government’s controversial efforts to widen the hunt for former spies.
Unlike the original law from 2008, which probed only current high-ranking holders of public office, the changes that entered into force last month mean that former politicians now also have to file statements that they did not collaborate with the secret police.
Journalists, university professors, lawyers, NGO activists and religious clergy were also added to the list for lustration.
“Only a few [former politicians and officials] who heard from the media that it is their legal obligation have submitted such statements,” says Cedomir Damjanovski, a member of the Lustration Commission, which is tasked with collecting the statements and determining which officials were honest in their declarations.
Meanwhile, it is unclear how many ex-officials must submit statements. Some media estimates say there may be several hundred thousand.
“We have asked the National Archive for help but they have declined our request because they say such a calculation would be too complex,” Damjanovski explains.
Silvana Boneva, an MP from the ruling VMRO DPMNE party, says that no one has alerted the party about difficulties collecting the statements and asked that the deadline be extended.
“However, in principle we are willing to consider such a request if the Lustration Commission presents us with arguments,” Boneva told Balkan Insight.
In addition to changes to the categories of individuals required to submit states, the amended lustration law now covers the period from 1945, when Macedonia became part of the former Socialist Federative Yugoslavia, SFRY, until present day. The law is also applicable in the future and the Commission will continue to probe officials until 2019.
The controversial amendments to the Macedonian lustration law adopted this year were attacked by the country’s opposition and human rights groups from the start.
“I have the impression that this is a deliberate attempt to bring chaos into the legal system,” human rights activist and former head of the Macedonian Helsinki Committee Mirjana Najcevska says.
Najcevska suspects that “the only goal is to intimidate and keep a large number of people under control through the constant fear that someone could harm them”.
Currently there are two separate proposals before the Constitutional Court asking the judges to annul the new provisions.
Macedonia has followed in the footsteps of many former communist countries from Eastern Europe who passed similar laws in order to deal with the injustices of the past where people were judged and sentenced based on their political views.
Since the country began its lustration process, only one person has been declared a spy. Trendafil Ivanovski, the former head of the Constitutional Court, was found to have worked for the secret services, charges he denies.