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Dealing with the Totalitarian/Authoritarian Past by Legal Means

by PhD Stefanie Ricarda Roos

Overview of the Status quo of "Lustration" in South Eastern Europe

The overview has been put together for the participants in the Study and Dialog Program on the subject of "Lustration" in Berlin, Germany, 18 - 22 February 2008, in order to serve as a brief presentation of the legal means used in the countries of South Eastern Europe (SEE) to deal with their communist/socialist past.

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The Rule of Law Program South East Europe promotes inter alia the political-juridical efforts to deal and reconcile with the past through legal norms while respecting the limitations that the rule of law imposes. A democracy which replaces a dictatorship or any other form of totalitarian or authoritarian regime – as is the case of all the countries in the region – endangers its credibility when perpetrators go unpunished and the new democracy does not prevent them by legal means from retaining their positions and further pursuing their careers. It follows that the purpose of legal sanctions and of lustration is primarily the preventive affirmation of civic virtues and the strengthening of democracy. The well functioning of a democracy is thus dependent upon the way in which it is able to confront and reconcile with its past.

The underlying idea of this brief overview of lustration measures in SEE is that all the countries in the region share the common feature of having to address their communist legacy – to which in many of the countries a more recent civil war past is adjoined. However, each of these countries has adopted a particular approach of addressing its past. The purpose of this overview is to point out what has been done in this respect in the countries in the region, i.e. what sort of laws envisaging the communist past exist, if a lustration law has been adopted or is under way and how the general debate on the topic develops. It includes up to date information and constitutes a good starting point for a more in depth study of the legal means by which lustration can be undertaken.

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About this series

The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, its educational institutions, centres and foreign offices, offer several thousand events on various subjects each year. We provide up to date and exclusive reports on selected conferences, events and symposia at In addition to a summary of the contents, you can also find additional material such as pictures, speeches, videos or audio clips.

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