To open or not to open classified files, this is the question!

To open or not to open classified files, this is the question!

IBNA Special Report

Tirana, November 28, 2014/Independent Balkan News Agency

By Edison Kurani

In the celebrations taking place for the 70th anniversary of liberation, the Albanian PM announced a total opening of the classified files belonging to the communist regime. This is the first time that a senior state official announced the opening of all files in these 24 years after the overthrow of the communist regime. So far, several efforts have been made to open the files, but they have been politically manipulated and misused. But now it seems different. Rama talks about opening all the files of the former Secret Services, the notorious services that recruited hundreds of thousands of Albanians, who with or without money, became spies of the regime by spying on their family, colleagues and their friends.

“We will open all these ‘graves’ of the memory. Through these files, we will offer a possibility to girls and boys of the next generation to understand where their parents come from, where their grandfathers come from and where their country comes from. In order for them to create a realistic perception and encouraging  their creative imagination to work freely own and not through the imposition of history written by politicians or politicians who endow themselves with the right to write history. We want them to have a direct relation with evidence from the past. We’re doing this in order for them to be free people and not allow anybody to threaten their thinking”, says Rama when he explains his plan for the opening of the files.

The PM says that “by fanatically preserving the mystery of the files of the past, of the files of the Secret Service, which hide many bitter truths, we conclude that the same school continues, the old political school of ruling over other, in spite of the cost and lying propaganda that is spread among the others”. Therefore he promises: “We’re here to open a new phase of relations with the past, not to review history, but to expose the past in all forms that we possess, as a possibility to show young generations and everyone else the new evidence, its images and its documents”.

Nevertheless, Mr. Rama didn’t offer any explanations as to how it will be proceeded in opening these files.

Must the files be opened?

The big dilemma today is whether the files must be opened like it happened in Germany, where everyone can go and see his file or that of someone else.

While this has happened in Germany, many people in Albania are skeptic that this will go without problems. Some say that the opening of the files would cause turbulences not only in politics, but in the entire Albanian society. Many people during the communist regime, in a voluntary way, forced or not, or involved as a result of the circumstances of a dictatorship regime, served to the Security Services by offering and exchanging different information on different people and even for close family relatives or friends.

The Albanian experience in these two and a half decades is a bitter one. Many painful events have taken place and continue to take place, such as ordinary conflicts, family conflicts, conflicts on the land and other ordinary motives which mainly come from the hot-blooded Mediterranean nature of many Albanians when they face such incidents or “reasons”.

But what would happen if files are opened for everyone? Do we have the German maturity not to rush into anything, for instance, if we see that our best friend has spied on his father who used to say that there was no bread to eat, by ruining the future of his son who wanted to go to school, thus causing a chain reaction which leads to the destruction of a family?

The truth is that the majority of the materials that spies used to secure were this ordinary, because a simple complaint against the regime was enough to become an object of persecution, as soon as this information was learned by the Secret Services.

President: Another lustration and another opening of files

The President of Republic, Bujar Nishani says that the opening of files will calm down many spirits: “The details of the files must be unveiled. Spirits must be calmed down”.

Nishani says that nobody should fear revenge in case the files are opened, because experience shows the contrary: “We have many cases where the victims of that regime knew their persecutors and there has been no case of revenge”.

The president says that the opening of the files is one thing and lustration another. Nishani goes even further when he says that the assets used by several people during the communist regime, must be verified.

Ismail Kadare: Tragedy happens when files are not opened

The notable writer, Ismail Kadare has been involved in the debate on the files. He’s in favor of opening the files of the former Secret Services. “I have been and I will always be in favor of opening the files of the former Secret Services. This has been and will be my positioning”, says Mr. Kadare.

Several times a presidential nominee, but never accepting this post, Kadare says that nobody must fear that Albania will undergo a national tragedy if the files are opened: “There cannot be a national tragedy from cleansing the conscience. All the countries of the world have carried out this process, which is a painful one, but I can say that none of these countries has seen a tragedy. Germany started it and then Czech Republic, Poland and Russia with many difficulties. No tragedy happened in any of these countries. On the contrary, the tragedy happens when they’re not opened. We’re the ones undergoing a tragedy by keeping the files hidden”.

Along Rama comes the draft from civil society

Albanian Human Rights Group, in cooperation with former political dissidents and former students of “December ‘90”, submitted in the past few days in Parliament, the bill on lustration and the opening of the files. This draft is based on the German model of opening the former Stas files. The bill was also proposed six years ago to the previous government.

In fact, lustration law has existed for years. But Elsa Ballauri, from the AHRG says that ‘lustration law has never functioned, because it has been made by politics, while in this case, it has been drafted by civil society’. “Politics has used the law for its own interests and this is the reason why the law is not functioning”, says Ballauri.

She also explains the way how the files will be accessible for Albanians. “Files have a given procedure. They can be made accessible for any Albanian citizen, who wants to see his file. With a special request addressed to the authorities, everyone can see his file, if he has such file, but he cannot demand the opening of the file of a relative”.

According to politicians, the draft that Ballauri has proposed suggests a public opening of the files. “The files of these people are opened and made public even when they don’t want this to happen”.

Ballauri explains that the bill on files neither condemns, nor penalizes or jails anyone. According to her, the bill doesn’t even suspend constitutional mandates. She admits that with the last bill, there was a perception, for which she says that it was the wrong one.

Meanwhile, the current draft handles the moral side of those who were involved in the Secret Services. The only punishment that they can undergo is the suspension of career for all of those who have contribute in the Secret Services during dictatorship and who still hold public offices.

Klosi: The files must be opened, but the main ones have disappeared

Former head of State Informative Services, Fatos Klosi says that the majority of Secret Services files have been burned. “The files must be opened, but the majority of them have been destroyed”, says Klosi.

Klisi is against a total opening of the files. “Only those files that relate to the dictatorship must be opened and not all of them, because there are things about the state that must not become public”, says Klosi.

Zhiti: Not only spies, but even those who helped the regime

Dissident writer, Visar Zhiti, who is a notable publicist and former political dissident, says that the opening of the files is important. Former minister of Culture suggests that “the list of collaborators must be made public”.

“It’s better to know about someone who becomes a public person. If we only demand for the list of those who collaborated with the Secret Services to come out, then we have deficiencies. Those who did the spying remain in the shadow and unthreatened. Besides the list of the collaborators of the regime, there must also be an identification of those who helped the communist regime”, suggests Visar Zhiti.

Meta: Files must open without threatening national security

Speaker of Parliament, Ilir Meta claims that the issue of the opening of the files is a process which a longer history than that of the transition, while he suggests that national security and Constitution must be preserved.

“It’s been 24 years that this process is opened and reopened in different or biased forms. I agree on opening the files, but with transparency and by not threatening the constitutional principles, which are at the same time very important, because we all know the problems taken place in the past with the lustration law. Thus, every opening of the files would be positive in order to help transparency with public opinion on all cases when national security is threatened”, says Mr. Meta.

Halimi: Rama’s hypocrisy, he blocked the law for five years

Democrat MP, Eduard Halimi is skeptic about the incentive of Edi Rama for the opening of files. Former minister of Justice recalls the fact that when Rama was in opposition, the draft on the files was blocked. “Edi Rama is a hypocrite. Along with 35 other MPs, he blocked the law 5 years ago and today he says that the files will be opened”, says Halimi. In fact, the Constitutional Court quashed the bill on the files at the time, following the request made by socialists.

Halimi says that Rama’s plan is a strategic show: “Rama and his media are looking to cause a debate for the opening of the files, in order to evade the responsibility of destroying the economy and the corruption of this government”.

Mesila Doda: There must be a decommunistization

Democrat MP, Mesila Doda says that the opening of the files must be accompanied by “decommunistization”: “The communist files must be opened in order for people to learn the truth about the person that they vote or those who have been given senior posts. Meanwhile, parliament of Albania must appoint an inquiry committee to shed light upon the crimes of Enver Hoxha and the communist regime and together, all sides of politics must condemn the crimes of communism and revoke all titles from the former dictator. I hope that this platform of decommunistization will be backed by all young people and intellectuals who do not want their country to be a hostage of the past.

We need to hear truths, Albania needs to shed light upon its history and reflect on the mistakes and tragedies of the past”, says Mesila Doda

Erjon Brace: Berisha must fear

Socialist MP, Erjon Brace, focuses on former PM, Sali Berisha when he says that “files will also be opened for witnesses”.

Before being elected as head of the Democratic Party, Berisha was a party secretary during the communist regime and a doctor for the communist leadership. Brace eagerly mentions these facts and adds: “I can understand Sali Berisha. He wants to cover himself, now that the process of the opening of former Secret Services files is closer than ever”.

Berisha himself has not talked about “Rama’s plan to open all files.

German ambassador: Albanians must be the ones to decide

Germany was determined when it opened its files. The ambassador of Germany, Helmut Hoffman, says that the opening of files is a difficult, but important process. He says that the German experience produced a successful process. “As a foreigner, I cannot tell you what to do, but I can say that we have gone through such experience”, says Mr. Hoffman.

“In Germany, we have faced several difficult situations like this, with the Nazi regime and then with the regime of the German Democratic Republic, by opening the files of the “Stasi” secret service. In both cases, we opened the files and when we opened those belonging to the communist period of Eastern Germany, there were many people who remained shocked, as they learned that many of their close friends were spies or collaborators of the regime. But in spite of the fact that was a bitter experience, it was a health step. I can say that it was something positive for all of us. I believe that it will also serve your society, but this is a debate that Albanians must solve between one another”, says ambassador Hoffman. /ibna/