NEWS BRIEFS

President slapped by parliamentarians

AT ITS LAST session on August 19 before recessing for September elections, the Slovak parliament again passed a bill making former communist secret service ŠtB files public.

The law, which President Rudolf Schuster had returned to the legislature after refusing to sign it, now takes effect without the signature of the head of state, according to Slovak practice.

The assembly also discussed two other anti-communist laws rejected by Schuster, himself a former high-level communist. A law banning former ŠtB collaborators and agents from working in the country's security units failed to win enough votes, as did an amendment to the Criminal Code banning the denial or justification of communist crimes. The amendment would have made public promotion of communist ideology punishable by up to three years in prison.

In the parliamentary debate, Schuster harvested fierce criticism especially from Christian Democrat MPs, some of whom spent time in communist jails as political prisoners before the 1989 overthrow of the regime.

"I'm proud of what I achieved as a communist," Schuster said prior to the parliamentary session, adding "many normal people were communists". He explained he had refused to sign the amendment because he had judged it to be in conflict with the Slovak constitution and international human rights documents.

Christian Democrat František Mikloško noted that the president had already signed a similar law punishing the promotion and denial of fascism. Thus, Mikloško said, while it had become illegal to doubt the occurrence of the Holocaust, it remained legal to doubt the existence of communist gulags.

Mikloško added that the president apparently thought Slovaks in gulags had "died on soft cushions".

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