Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 25

The law on vetting former KGB officers and informers, enacted by the Lithuanian parliament last November, went into effect on February 1. Former agents of the KGB and of Soviet military intelligence are required to register with an interdepartmental commission of the Lithuanian government and to provide the State Security Department with an account of their activities in the service of the Soviet agencies. They are also required to disclose any attempts by their former employers to reactivate them. The information is destined to remain secret, and the State Security Department is tasked to protect the former agents against blackmail, attempts at re-recruitment or other unpleasant consequences.

The secrecy clause does not apply to government officials of senior rank, parliamentary deputies, mayors and members of elective local councils, judges and prosecutors–nor to candidates for such posts–if any of those turn out to have been agents of the Soviet intelligence and repressive apparatus. All former agents will, for a ten-year period, be banned from serving as government officials, civil servants, school educators, judges or prosecutors, or as military or civilian roles requiring security clearances. The State Security Department estimates the number of agents and full-time informers of the KGB at 4,000 as of 1991, when Lithuania restored its independence.

Russia has in the meantime provided a safe haven to many of those former agents. By the same token, Moscow seems set to defend those still in Lithuania by internationalizing the issue and turning it into one of human rights. In a January 31 statement, the Russian government’s Plenipotentiary for Human Rights Oleg Mironov warned that lustration in Lithuania “poses the danger of discrimination and unwarranted violation of the human rights and civil freedoms of individuals.” The statement singled out the ten-year ban on office holding as an egregious violation of human rights. Mironov cited Lithuania’s obligations under international pacts, which forbid infringements on the honor and reputation of individuals and which mandate equal access of citizens to public posts. The plenipotentiary appealed to the Council of Europe to watch against political discrimination and violations of human rights “on a mass scale” in the course of lustration in Lithuania.

Lithuanian Parliament Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis had been the main driving force behind the lustration law. Responding to Mironov on February 2, Landsbergis pointed out that Lithuanian collaboration with the KGB never had a “mass character,” that the vetting narrowly targets the former agents, and that the safeguards in the lustration law preclude any threat to human rights and civil liberties in Lithuania. Landsbergis observed that parts of Mironov’s statement seemed to view Lithuania as still a part of the USSR or Russia, and that the Plenipotentiary’s focus on Lithuania “comes as a surprise, considering the worrisome situation in Russia itself when it comes to respect for human rights and freedoms” (BNS, Vilnius Radio, Itar-Tass, January 31-February 3).

Mironov was appointed by former President Boris Yeltsin to replace the democrat Sergey Kovalyov as human rights commissioner. Mironov helped politicize that post and turn it into a Kremlin sounding board. He recently issued an assessment praising the situation of human rights in Belarus on all counts (see the Monitor, November 12, 1999), including what he described as the absence of discrimination against individuals and groups–the concern he is now attempting artificially to create with respect to Lithuania.