It took almost 20 years for an official denouncement of the Communist Regime in Romania and it took a little bit longer for the Lustration law to come into force. The need for moral punishment was long gone when the Parliament decided we need to sanction former communist officials yet, this law, which has fallen into desuetude before it applied, can help draw some painful conclusion about our society. From the point of view of the person that doesn’t remember those dark ages, the present law has nothing to do with its initial conceptual purpose; instead it shows the lack of vision and focus from those called to rule a modern society.
From the point of view of the man on the street this law is a pill to cure an earthquake. His problems are elsewhere, his needs knock on different doors than that of moral revenge or satisfaction. The reasoning is simple: if the law is stringent in the year 2012 the logic assumption is that those aimed by it are still in key positions in the State. If they were here for the past 23 years where was this magic law, why we did not feel the need to create it, what will a five year ban change?
From a legal point of view the law has a tone of loose ends and seems arbitrary and written at a full jump. Any law has to pursue a general interest that is important and present. What is this general interest in the present case? Where is the stringency? What is the goal? How do we justify the time taken to debate and vote it in a period when so many other things are urgent in the state’s policy? We can admit that in an utopic world this law will give relief, will be a public statement for the international society and a moral slap for those that had no decency to step back from the public light. If we try hard we can find a general interest to be protected and if we try harder we can believe it is valid. But even with this interest in mind, the law is still imperfect from the point of view of the subjects it aims.
When creating a legal text you have to find objective criterions to determine the active subjects. Those rules must be logical and easily identifiable, non-discriminatory and coherent. In the present case the rule seems to be that the law applies to whoomever we thought of in the coffee break. Common sense dictates that a lustration law should apply to those that were in close conection with the totalitary regime, that had a political bind with the communist doctrine and chose consciously to take part in the represive actions. In our case the law applies to the communist politicians but not to the young communist politicians, it applies to the editors of communist newspapers but not to those that wrote endless odes for the head of the state, it applies to former prosecutors but not to former judges or other legal proffesionals.
Last but not least we come down to sanctioning a reprehensible conduct; the punishment in principle has to have a preventive role and a represive role. As it has no point talking about the preventive role in this case, the represive one stands alone. The sanction, even though it is only represive, must be proportionate with the goal pursued. A five year ban from public sight must seem at first a pretty easy burden to carry, but when you look at individual cases you might be surprise at how unfair it really is. Hypothetically I wonder how is this sanction effective when applied to a person that for 23 years served the general interest of society, offered guidance for new generations, was estimed and cherished by his/her peers? How is the sanction proportionate when applied to a person that for 23 years walked the straight line?
Maybe the answer to all the questions stands in the way the lustration law was created: if being younger is enough to rinse off any communist beliefs, if publishing things is more sorely than creating them, if choosing a career is reason enough for punishment regardless of whether or not you were affiliated to the totalitary regime then any punishment is proportionate with the goal pursued by this law… so let the witch hunt begin.