Where states stand on Soviet-era police files
Publicado originalmente em BBC News
Post-communist governments have never managed to adopt a law on opening the secret files of the Sigurimi, the communist-era secret police.
However, in October 2006, parliament passed a resolution calling for them to be opened.
Crimes committed under the late communist ruler Enver Hoxha must, it said, be “recognised and denounced so that they are not repeated” and it called for the naming of ex-collaborators holding public office.
The resolution was non-binding and separate legislation would be needed to oblige the authorities to open the files.
In December 2006, Bulgaria’s parliament finally passed a law to open its communist-era intelligence archives and potentially shed light on the now-defunct Darzhavna Sigurnost, one of the Cold War’s most notorious secret services.
According to the law, people are allowed to see their files.
A commission will also be created to investigate public figures – such as politicians, public officials, scientists, judges, church officials and journalists – and publish their names on the internet if found guilty. The names will appear only after these people have been informed, and they will have the right to appeal to the Supreme Administrative Court before their names are published.
Some files will remain classified “for national security reasons” and a separate archive will be created for those documents.
In 2003, the Czech Republic published lists of those who co-operated with the communist-era Czechoslovak secret police, the StB.
A list of the names of about 160,000 alleged collaborators had been made public over a decade earlier ago by a former dissident, Petr Cibulka, who said he had received them from a source with access to StB records.
Slovakia began releasing thousands of StB secret files in November 2004.
The files, which date back as far as the mid-1950s, contain lists of more than 21,000 names, including informers and alleged dissidents.
Following reunification, Germany passed a law in 1991 on opening the archives of East Germany’s secret police the Stasi.
The Stasi Records Act protected the files from destruction and allowed for their gradual release.
Any citizen has the right to inspect his or her personal files and find out to what extent the Stasi affected their life. More than two million people have inspected their personal files to date.
A 2003 law allowed individuals access to their own files created by the communist-era secret police, and also allowed victims to see the records of people who spied on them.
Only data from the period which is deemed to affect national security may remain secret.
In November 2006, President Lech Kaczynski signed a new law to open communist-era secret police files that include information on current diplomats, government ministers and members of parliament.
Previously, only historians and journalists previously had access to the files, which are held by the National Remembrance Institute (IPN), set up in 1998 to prosecute Nazi and communist crimes in Poland.
Under new rules, expected to come into effect before mid-February 2007, public figures including senior officials, judges, teachers, journalists, diplomats, municipal officials, heads of state-owned companies, editors, publishers and school directors, will have to apply to the IPN for a special certificate saying whether or not they collaborated. They could be fired if they are found to have worked as agents.
Previously, only leading public officials were subject to vetting. The records will now be made public, but those who are shown to have collaborated will have the right to appeal to the courts to clear their names. It is thought that around 400,000 people will be affected by the new law.
In 1999, the government set up a special commission, the Council for Studying Securitate Archives (CNSAS), to review millions of secret police documents. By law, the CNSAS is required to search the files for signs of collaboration among politicians and other public figures, such as civil servants and members of civil society including journalists and priests.
But it was only quite recently that the council was given the relevant files by the security services. Some politicians have already been named as collaborators. It is up to the board of the CNSAS to vote on whether an accused public figure collaborated or not. The government has yet to decide whether or not the guilty will be punished.
In 2005, all Securitate archives were opened to the public except those that concern national security issues. So far, thousands of people have been able to find out whether their neighbours or loved ones were spies.
In the former Soviet Union – apart from the Baltic states – the tendency has been to throw a veil over files kept by the Soviet secret police, the KGB.
Indeed, former KGB officers are prominent in the top echelons of politics and business in Russia.
Of the Baltic states, Latvia has voted to disclose the contents of KGB files containing the names of former secret police agents in March 2007.
Parliament voted for the measure despite strong opposition from President Vaira Vike-Freiberga who argued that the privacy and personal security of individuals could be put at risk.
Lithuania’s parliament voted in October 2006 for the opening of the government’s special archive, where all KGB files are stored, to unlimited public access.
In Estonia, members of the public are allowed to read KGB files kept at the national archives.
In 2001, Serbian citizens were allowed to look at secret files kept on them by the former state security service, the UDBA, for the first time.
But human rights organisations objected to the fact that the UDBA’s successor maintained control of the files and they also suspected that many files were destroyed in the days and weeks after former President Slobodan Milosevic fell from power in 2000.
Much of the public concern in both Serbia and Croatia is over secret police files from the years following the collapse of Yugoslavia.
In November 2001, Croatia opened secret police files kept by the government of President Franjo Tudjman.
In April 2003, an unapproved website appeared listing data on about 1.5 million individuals from Slovenia, taken from UDBA archives. The government sought to block access to the site.