ISSN 2330-717X

Macedonia To Widen Hunt for Former Spies

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By Sinisa Jakov Marusic

The ruling centre-right VMRO DPMNE party and its junior partner, the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, are proposing to widen the span of the lustration process to include journalists, political leaders, clerics, lawyers and NGO activists along with former public office-holders.

Unlike the situation with the current lustration law, which probes only into current high-ranking holders of public office, former presidents and prime ministers will now also have to file statements that they were not police collaborators in the past.

“The goal of the amendment to include more segments of society is to have a [more] just process,” Silvana Boneva, a legislator from VMRO DPMNE, told Balkan Insight.

She argues that the ruling party is not trying to intimidate journalists, the NGO sector and other groups but simply to improve the process of lustration that begun in 2008, when the current law was adopted.

However, Mirjana Najcevska, a member of the local NGO sector and a fomer head of the Macedonian Helsiki Committee for Human Rights, says the proposed amendments are deeply worrying.

“The whole thing has got out of control and became a means of political slander,” she said. “Instead of ending this charade, the ruling parties are now taking it to a next level.”

Najcevska said the government’s real agenda was to “threaten and intimidate huge areas of society”.

In the draft filed to parliament this week, the ruling parties propose also that the period of lustration be extended to 2019. At the moment, only collaborators with the former socialist Yugoslav system that collapsed in 1990 are subject to lustration.

The Lustration Commission, a body of party delegates and law experts tasked with probing the truth, has so far received several alleged secret police dossiers in photocopy form, charging high-ranking politicians with being former Yugoslav and Serbian spies.

Although it refused to investigate the claims, saying it could not accept photocopies as evidence, the documents stirred a nationwide controversy. One person has been since arrested and charged with forging the files.

So far the Lustration Commission has pronounced only one person a spy, the former head of the Constitutional Court, Trendafil Ivanovski. He claims he was politically framed.

The fresh amendments further clarify the scope of the Lustration Commission and rule out photocopies as acceptable evidence.

The changes are likely to pass, as the ruling parties hold a comfortable majority in parliament. However, the proposers say they wish to secure a cross-party consensus.

The main opposition Social Democrats said they need more time to look over the proposed changes before reacting.

Balkan Insight

Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (fornerkt the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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