People's Party wants to name KGB names

  • 2000-02-17
  • By Blake Lambert
RIGA - One of the parties in the governing coalition has drafted a law that would publish the identities of former KGB agents and informers in the country's official newspaper.

The People's Party, citing a desire to "come clean" with the past, has proposed to name the people in the government newspaper Latvijas Vestnesis until Dec. 31, 2001.

For a period of three years afterwards, those identified could not be prosecuted for their KGB involvement.

Once that expired, no proceedings could be started against anyone with alleged links to the former secret service.

Vaira Paegle, a Member of Parliament with the People's Party, said her party, which is conservative, stressed that it will not have former KGB informers in its highest ranks from the beginning.

She said the party had a policy to publish the lists of names sooner or later; all of its candidates for Parliament were scrutinized in the archives for any potential links.

"The reason for [publishing the names] is for transparency, for the fact that there is always the occasion that people can be blackmailed on the basis of information that is contained in those files, knowing full well that they are incomplete," said Paegle.

"[It is] a first step to really deflect the continuing debates and discussions and passions around the issue to make these lists public."

Yet, as Paegle acknowledged, the lists of KGB agents and informers who worked in Latvia are located in Russia and incredibly incomplete, missing thousands of names.

According to Indulis Zalite, manager of the Center for the Documentation of the Consequences of Totalitarianism, Latvia has about 4,300 names of informers, recruited from 1953 onward: about 15 percent of an estimated 24,000 informers during that era.

He said all but 100 names from the 4,300 come from the 1980s and 1990s, the Mikhail Gorbachev era.

"These files will make a very distorted picture, because they are incomplete," said Janis Jurkans, an MP with For Human Rights In a United Latvia.

He criticized the People's Party draft law, opposing any move ever to reopen the KGB files, a position, which he said, he put forth as Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1992.

"How can I come clean when the bulk of everything is in Moscow? How can I come clean if the dirt is not at home?" asked Jurkans.

Paegle, describing the KGB files as an area fraught with secrecy and uncertainty both in Latvia and Russia, called for complete openness at home and for the former Soviet republics, together with international organizations, to pressure Russia to return each of their archives.

After 1991, very few people in Latvia have confessed they were involved with the KGB: A notable exception is Juris Bojars, chairman of the Latvian Social Democratic Workers Party, who admitted his involvement and is restricted from serving as an MP.

Paegle did not dismiss suggestions that people with alleged links may be found in Parliament and in the highest levels of bureaucracy.

As a result, she said it needs to be determined what constituted KGB collaboration in the Soviet era.

"We don't believe [the past] is over and done with. We are seeing it around issues of the Holocaust, the need to really bring to justice all those who have perpetrated crimes against humanity. That it's never over and done with," said Paegle.

To publish the names of people with alleged KGB links will create a "hell on earth" in Latvia, according to Jurkans, claiming the People's Party is just trying to make political noise and win support from the electorate of For Fatherland and Freedom, a coalition partner.

He said he expected anyone named on a list to go to court and say the allegation is garbage.

"My name has been blemished. I've been wrongly accused. What a shock for many people to be accused of KGB [involvement]," said Jurkans.

Instead, he said there should be a law that forbids anyone or any media outlet to publish or discuss a person's alleged KGB links, unless someone is formally charged and the crime is punishable.

Previous court trials probing alleged collaboration proved nothing, said Jurkans, and he believes many politicians would somehow be tainted by their previous history.

"Of course, I wish we could get rid of our hunchbacked past, so to speak, but it is impossible," he said.

There are simply no substitutes for the current generation as there are not enough young people to come through and elbow those in power aside, according to Jurkans.

The draft law will be submitted to Parliament on Feb. 17. MPs will decide on whether to include it in the day's business for a vote.

Paegle said the People's Party will be supported by For Fatherland and Freedom and perhaps the Social Democrats, but Latvia's Way is not in favor.

Neither is Zalite, the historian, who cannot understand the reason to publish these names since former KGB agents and informers already face eight restrictions under Latvian law such as not being allowed to hold public office.

There is not enough information or case files on paper, he said, for the draft law to proceed.

Besides, Zalite said, the government could not find any secret informers who committed a crime that could be punished after 1991.

"Because I know people on the list, I can say most of them live according to restrictions under Latvia's law against KGB agents," he said. "Publishing these names means they will be punished twice."