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What is the Lustration Law?

The Lustration Law was approved by the government of Czechoslovakia in the autumn of 1991 in order to prevent former Communist Party officials and members of the ŠtB state secret police from holding sensitive public office posts, particularly within the Foreign Affairs, Interior, Security and Defence ministries.

The Lustration Law was approved by the government of Czechoslovakia in the autumn of 1991 in order to prevent former Communist Party officials and members of the ŠtB state secret police from holding sensitive public office posts, particularly within the Foreign Affairs, Interior, Security and Defence ministries.

Under the law, certificates were issued to people who had been listed in the ŠtB database, but who after police investigations were determined not to have cooperated with the communist organ. Those not receiving the certificates were to be prohibited from working in the aforementioned sectors.

When passed by the Czechoslovak Parliament, the law's duration was originally set for five years. But in 1993, the country split into the Czech and Slovak Republics. When the Lustration Law expired in the autumn of 1996, the Czechs voted to prolong the law for a further five years (the law is expected to be prolonged again this autumn in the Czech parliament). In Slovakia, the original Lustration Law was never extended nor, critics and former politicians say, was it ever taken seriously.

Peter Dinuš, a historian and an advisor to current Slovak Justice Minister Ján Čarnogurský, said that instead of prolonging the Lustration Law, the Slovak parliament in 1996 approved the Law on the Immorality and Injustice of the Communist Regime, which had "only a declarative character" with no real power to keep former high ranking communists or ŠtB members out of sensitive posts. Instead, the law was simply a public declaration that the communist regime had been immoral and unjust.

Former Slovak Prime Minister Jozef Moravčík said his country had lacked the necessary political clout to enforce the law. "We lacked the political will," said Moravčík, who is now mayor of Bratislava, to the Slovak daily Sme on June 5. "We didn't have the [political] strength to apply the [lustration] law in reality."

Vladimír Palko, head of the parliamentary Military Security Committee, has also been critical of the country's lack of resolve in "dealing with its Communist past".

"If we tried to re-introduce the law in parliament, I doubt it would be passed," he told The Slovak Spectator June 12. "I hope this affair [in which 15 former VKR members are suspected of holding posts in the Slovak Army] will revive the country's interest in dealing with the criminal communist regime."

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