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Lustration is a term that refers to the purge of government officials once affiliated with the Communist system in Central and Eastern Europe. Various forms of lustration were employed in post-communist Europe. The concept might resemble de-Nazification in post-World War II Europe, and the de-Ba'athification in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, and therefore resonates with concepts such as possible accountability for past human rights abuses, corruption or injustice. The term is taken from the Roman lustrum purification rituals.
After the fall of the various European Communist governments in 1989–1991, the term came to refer to government-sanctioned policies of "mass disqualification of those associated with the abuses under the prior regime". Procedures excluded participation of former communists, and especially of informants of the communist secret police, in successor political positions, or even in civil service positions. This exclusion formed part of the wider decommunization campaigns. In some countries, however, lustration laws did not lead to exclusion and disqualification. Lustration law in Hungary (1994–2003) was based on the exposure of compromised state officials, while lustration law in Poland (1999–2005) depended on confession.
Lustration law "is a special public employment law that regulates the process of examining whether a person holding certain higher public positions worked or collaborated with the repressive apparatus of the communist regime". The "special" nature of lustration law refers to its transitional character. As of 1996, various lustration laws of varying scope were implemented in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Macedonia, Albania, Bulgaria, the Baltic States (Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia), Germany, Poland, and Romania. As of 1996 lustration laws had not been passed in Belarus, nor in the former Soviet Central Asian Republics (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan) (Ellis, 1996).
Lustration can serve as a form of instant revenge for those who were abused by a past government, and prevent that those colluded with past abuses might benefit from their positions of power. It is claimed that lustration systems based on dismissal or confession might be able to increase trust in government, while those based on confession might be able to promote social reconciliation.
Unlike many of the neighbouring states, the new government in the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic did not adjudicate under court trials, but rather took a non-judicial approach to ensure changes would be made and purify the country of past human rights abusers.
Per a law passed on 4 October 1991, all those involved with the StB, the Communist-era secret police, were blacklisted from certain high public offices. This included upper reaches of the civil service, the judiciary, procuracy, the security service (BIS), army positions, management of state owned enterprises, the central bank, the railways, high academic positions and the public electronic media. This law continued in effect in the Czech Republic after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, and expired in 2000.
The lustration laws in Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic were not meant to serve as a form of justice, but to ensure that events such as the Communist coup of February 1948 would not happen again.
The Baltic nations took a unique view on lustration. Latvia, along with other Baltic nations of the Soviet Union, were free countries recognized by the League of Nations prior to being adsorbed into the USSR. The governments of these nations viewed Kremlin as an occupying power and not a legitimate government. Therefore after declaring independence from the USSR Latvia inherited the diplomatic ties that it had prior to the Soviet occupation. This allowed for Latvia to shift the blame to the former Soviet regime for most problems the nation has faced, the Soviet legacy was easily dismissed as a problem of the occupying regime and not the occupied Latvians. Instead of applying strict lustration laws Latvia instead refused to automatically grant citizenship to anyone whose forebears arrived after June 1940, this policy affected mostly Russians living in Latvia and as they were seen as occupiers in Soviet times prevented them from running for public office, therefore having a similar effect as a lustration law.
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