Monday, February 4, 2008

Protest against ruling that opening secret police archives was unconstitutional

Sunday, February 3, 2008

BUCHAREST, Romania: Some 500 people demonstrated Sunday in Bucharest to protest a ruling by the Constitutional Court that the law opening of Romania's secret police archives was unconstitutional.

As a result of the decision, the body that studies the Securitate files to identify informers under the former regime cannot pass verdicts on public figures who may have collaborated with the secret police. All the verdicts passed so far become null.

The protest was organized by more than 20 civil groups, who said the ruling is a "return to communist practices." They demanded the dismissal of the Constitutional Court members and the continuation of the project to reveal Securitate informers.

Ana Blandiana, a poet and dissident under communism, said that the ruling is "an attempt to put the clock back" and that the judges of the Constitutional Court, who voted unanimously for the ruling, felt personally threatened by the work.

Though Romanians found to have collaborated with the Securitate have not been prosecuted, a finding against them could result in their being barred from public office.

The move to declare the 1999 law unconstitutional was met with both criticism and applause in Romania, where many had complained that the law was being used as an instrument of retribution and blackmail. In the eight years since the law took effect, many public figures have been exposed as collaborators with Romania's communist-era Securitate.

The Constitutional Court said Friday it found the 1999 law to be unconstitutional in allowing the Council for the Study of the Securitate Archives to act as if it were itself a court, while playing the roles of both prosecutor and judge in each case and then hearing the first appeals.

Romania has long debated how best to come to terms with its communist past, when an estimated 700,000 informers spied on their friends and relatives for the feared secret police. Some informers were as young as nine, and some were forced to keep tabs on colleagues, including reporting on their political views. Others, however, cooperated willingly, to earn favors from the regime.

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