ON ONE July afternoon the Slovak parliament did more to help the country deal with its totalitarian past than it has in 13 years since the fall of communism.
The July 10 passage of three laws, during the last week that the current parliament sits before September elections, moved member of parliament (MP) František Mikloško to say Slovakia now "prides itself on having the most anti-communist legislation among all post-communist countries."
An amendment to the country's Penal Code, after it is signed into effect by President Rudolf Schuster, will make the promotion of communist ideology, or the denial, approval or excusing of communist crimes, punishable by six months to three years in jail.
Another two laws ban former communist ŠtB secret service employees from working in the current secret service (SIS), and allow ŠtB archives to be opened to the public, enabling citizens to find out whether the ŠtB had files on them, as well as the names of agents who spied on them.
The laws also call for the creation of an Office of National Remembrance to store the files, and defines the 1939-1989 era as "the period of non-freedom".
Historians say that 71,000 people were unjustly sentenced to prison during communism, while 705 people were executed or otherwise killed by the regime in Slovakia. More than 13,000 people were sent to forced labour camps.
"The truth will make us free," the laws' author, independent MP Ján Langoš, told journalists triumphantly shortly after the proposals were passed.
Marián Gula, head of the Justice Ministry's documentation of communist crimes department, predicted that "the secret service will finally be rid of the ŠtB influence".
Langoš estimated that "dozens of former ŠtB members" still worked in the SIS, which he said made Slovakia's secret service untrustworthy for its potential western integration partners.
On the other hand, the non-parliamentary Slovak Communist Party (KSS) protested the passage of the Penal Code amendment, calling it undemocratic.
15. Jul 2002 at 0:00 | Martina Pisárová