Belarusian society must be prepared for lustration in advance
Another round table discussion entitled “The relevance of lustration in the contemporary post-Soviet space” was held last week by the public initiative “Lustration for Belarus”. The range of issues for discussion was rather broad and included studying the Ukrainian experience (from the Maidan protests to the present), as well as examples of lustration in other post-Soviet countries, and possible options for the development of the Concept of Lustration in Belarus.
According to a member of the Working Group of the NGOs’ Assembly, Vatslau Areshka, the initiative was created three years ago and includes experts, journalists and representatives of various democratic organizations. It was not initially aimed to create a final document, but to project the future of the law and collect “materials for the concept of lustration”.
Historian and researcher of the period of Stalinist repression Ihar Kuzniatsou views lustration as a process of cleansing and as a political practice, which should include a ban on certain professions and positions, as well as lifting the ban on private life (as lustration allows public dissemination of information, e.g. on cooperation with the secret police) . He recalled that the first draft of the Belarusian law on lustration was proposed for consideration in 1991 by MP Halina Staravoitava, but was not adopted.
Lustration is a process of purification, often applied when a new government purges officials of a former regime who perpetrated crimes and abuses of power. Various forms of lustration were employed in post-communist Europe, post-World War II Europe, and Iraq. It also applies more broadly to the process of nations dealing with past human rights abuses, corruption or injustices. The term is taken from the Roman lustrum purification rituals. Source: wikipedia.org
A special note was added to the meeting by the events in Ukraine, which has already passed the lustration process, which significantly affected the current situation in Belarus’ southern neighbor. That is the organizers invited a Ukrainian human rights activist Volodymyr Yavorsky, which is one of the developers of a draft law on lustration, which is now under consideration in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.
“Our bill, one of four that have been submitted to the Parliament, is based on the principles of the European Court of Human Rights, Council of Europe standards and views lustration not as punishment but as a prohibition to hold a number of senior positions in government, and not touching the private sector, with the definition of such limitations for a period of 10 years. Human rights activists view lustration as a condition of democracy and guarantees against return to the past,” said Yavorsky.
According to him, lustration should cover not only the last years of Viktor Yanukovych’s administration, but also the Soviet period, in contrast to the Belarusian concept which sets the beginning of lustration at July 1994, the coming to power of Aliaksandr Lukashenka.
Such a position is strongly opposed by opposition activist Vintsuk Viachorka: “It is clear that on the one hand we do not need to scare people too much, but view lustration through its moral influence on society”.
However, analyzing the experience of Poland, where lustration was rather mild, which today brings certain problems, Viachorka strongly disagrees with the period of the lustration process. According to him, the communist totalitarianism cannot be left without attention, as “former Soviet and imperial agents, which are still a lot on the post-Soviet territories, are waiting in the wings”. He noted that society needed to create an atmosphere of moral claims to those who crave power, or have it. He further suggested: “Opposition politicians themselves could set an example of openness, rather than hiding the controversial episodes of their biographies”.
Former Chairman of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Belarus Mechyslau Hryb says that it is too early to “go to the people with the concept and the draft law, that one must first come to power” and suggests the initiators and developers of the concept not to announce their plans for lustration in Belarus in advance, so that those who are now in power could not get even more consolidated and take countermeasures.
During the discussion, Vatslau Areshka noted that after the democratic changes in the country many of the structures, especial law-enforcement agencies, will be easier to create from scratch, and Volodymyr Yavorsky replied with the example of Georgia: “For example in Georgia the courts recruited people with a foreign education, young, normal, 30 years old, and who are willing to return from abroad to honestly do their job”.
Chairman of the Ethics Commission of the Belarusian Association of Journalists Anatol Huliayeu said that based on concrete examples lustration should affect not only those who are going to take positions in the public sector, but also representatives of private companies and organizations.
Journalist Marat Haravy is convinced that lustration is needed in any case, and it is important to explain to people why, “so that they do not think that we will come here now and will try and hang you on lampposts”.
The roundtable participants separately touched upon the issue of massive fraud during the elections, and possible options of lustration for persons involved in these falsifications, as well as questions of division of the lustration process and criminal penalties for certain crimes, such as for the disappearance of politicians and a journalist from Belarus.
Summing up the discussion, the organizers came to the conclusion that Belarusian society must be prepared for the process of lustration in advance and invited those present to work together, saying that efforts in this direction will continue.