Law on KGB reservists fails, but the lustration debate continues

  • 2007-05-16
  • By Arturas Racas
VILNIUS - Lithuanian parliament failed in a May 15 vote to override a presidential veto on a law which would have broadened the Baltic nation's ban on former KGB officials holding public posts, but some politicians say that debate is not yet over and are eager to offer new legislation imposing restrictions on former members of the Soviet intelligence service.

Sixty-four lawmakers supported amendments to the Lustration Law that would have blocked former KGB reserve officers from working in ministries, the army, courts, the prosecutor's office and other public institutions, but their number wasn't enough to push the changes through. More than half 's 71, of the 141 's member Parliament's votes are needed to override a presidential veto.
The amendments were mainly aimed at two well-known Lithuanian politicians 's the head of the State Security Department Arvydas Pocius, whom Parliament on May 10 voted to dismiss from his position, and former Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis. Lithuanian media reported two years ago that the men's names were on the list of KGB reserve officers, but both claimed they did nothing wrong.

Pocius and Valionis were not subject to restrictions under Lithuania's law on lustration, in force since 1999. It provides for a 10-year ban from holding public office and working in some private companies, but the restrictions apply only to regular KGB officers, not reservists.
A special parliamentary commission investigated Pocius' and Valionis' links to the KGB and concluded that the fact that they had been KGB reserve officers did not pose a threat to national security.
However, the right-wing Conservative Party and its supporters in Parliament were not satisfied with those conclusions and initiated the amendments to the Lustration Law. The law had to be amended in any case as four former KGB officers won appeals against Lithuania in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which ruled that banning KGB officers from employment in private sector companies violates human rights.

The debate on the amendments was heated and lasted for more than one year, but in mid-April lawmakers finally agreed on a new Lustration Law. But it did not come into force as President Valdas Adamkus decided to veto it, arguing that the restrictions against KGB reservist violate human rights, are too late and do not meet the aim of the lustration process.
Andrius Kubilius, chairman of the Conservative Party and one of the supporters of the restrictions on KGB reserve officers, believes that the May 10 parliamentary vote does not spell the end of the debate.
"We are going to propose new amendments. The president said they were not adequate to the goals of the law, so we shall consider what would be adequate, what the restrictions should be. For example, we may ask ourselves the whether a KGB reserve officer can be elected president," Kubilius told The Baltic Times.

"The issue is not closed as we also must obey the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. So we will start discussions again and I hope that some compromise can be found, including a compromise with the president's office," Kubilius added.