23.4.2012, Balkan Insight, Experts Urge the Opening of Secret Files

Balkan Insight, 23.4.2012.

Serbia must pass the Law on Opening Secret Files soon if it is truly to confront past crimes, a round table concluded on Saturday.
Jelena Milic, Head of the Centre for Euro- Atlantic Studies, which organized the debate, said that the opening of the secret files is crucial because it would help shed light on the role of the security services in the wars of the 1990s.
Serbia still does not have a law on the opening of the government archives.
The first attempt to make the secret files public was made after the democratic changes in 2000, and the second in 2004, when the Serbian Renewal Movement, SPO, proposed new legislation.
The motion, however, never gained support in the Serbian parliament, leaving Serbia as the only country in Europe without this law.
In its resolution on Serbia adopted on March 28, the European Parliament asked Serbia to open its National Archives, and to make public the archives of the communist era intelligence agency, UDBA, in particular.
Jelko Kacin, Brussels' Rapporteur for Serbia, wrote an open letter addressing the issues of the secret files.
In it he noted that all post-communist societies faced the same dilemma during their transitional periods concerning what to do with the files left from the authoritarian regimes.
He welcomed the reform of the Security Information Agency, BIA, saying that it no longer poses a threat to the democratic system. Most of the agency’s former leaders are either at the Hague Tribunal or have retired.
“However, the state needs to do more, especially regarding the killing of the journalist Slavko Curuvija, and the political nature of Zoran Djindjic’s assassination. These are concrete cases that if addressed would show that the rule of law really exists in Serbia,” Kacin said in his letter.
Branka Prpa, the director of the Serbian Archive, said that Serbia could choose between Slovenian or Croatian model. In Slovenia, the State Archive decides who gets to see personal files compiled by the secret services, while in Croatia the families of subjects can access their files, but they have to sign a confidentiality agreement.
Sonja Biserko, from the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, said the political will to make the files public does not exist.
“The most significant documentation concerns Kosovo and I think that those files will never be opened,” she said.
The Law on the Opening of the Secret Files, initiated in 2004, has been drafted by legal experts from the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights. Their director, Milan Antonijevic, says that any future legislation needs to take into account the privacy and dignity of the victims. Legislators should also ensure that the law cannot be misused.
Vesna Rakic Vodinelic, a Belgrade law professor, said that passing the law to open the secret files was the transitional justice measure that would allow society to face its past.
“Without the opening of the files there can be no proper rehabilitation. There is no future for a society does not face its own past, “she concluded.
The Serbian archives are thought to contain thousands of secret documents about political murders, the blackmail of politicians and criminals, and relationships with domestic and foreign intelligence agencies.
It also contains information about citizens from across the former Yugoslavia, as well as Serbian citizens.