Prosecuting history : political justice in post-Communist Eastern Europe
Fifty years after the Nuremberg trials, Europe is challenged once again with a question: Who is responsible for state-sponsored violations of human rights. This time, those put on trial or ostracised from power are elements of the Communist structures of control. Some observers have criticised these measures of political justice, comparing them to a 'witch hunt,' and accusing the courts and legislature of often engendering an unjustifiable collective guilt. In contrast, others have claimed that not enough is being done; that the people of Eastern Europe "have asked for justice, and got the rule of law." In this thesis, the author proposes an assessment of the process of political justice taking place in post-Communist Eastern Europe. The approach taken is from the perspective of the role played in this process by the concept of collective responsibility of political organisations for violations of human rights. While concentrating on the way collective responsibility appears in the criminal law measures taken in Hungary, and in the administrative procedures of screening used in the Czech Republic, the thesis also aims to offer a comprehensive picture of the general debate on accountability for past human rights violations which takes place in post-Communist Eastern Europe. The thesis underlines the complexity of the political reality in which the expectations for accountability for state-sponsored violations of human rights are answered. It also emphasises the importance for this answer to acknowledge the nature of the Communist regime, and of its representative structure known under the name of Nomenklatura. Based on these elements, the author argues for the necessity of combining individual and collective responsibility for human rights violations. A reconstructed concept of collective agency and collective responsibility appears to be the solution to the inconsistencies otherwise manifested in a process of political justice. Such concepts, the author argues, should allow for the acknowledgement - through commissions of truth, as well as through prosecution and screening - of the role played by the Communist structure of power in the violations of human rights which took place under its regime.