Socialist Majority Proposes Ban on Studying Communist Crimes in WWII Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs

The Albanian Socialist Party majority have proposed a ban on the studying of WWII communist crimes, a move that is deemed “unacceptable” by academic and head of the Institute for the Study of the Crimes of Communism, Agron Tufa.

The parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs headed by MP Ulsi Manja passed the proposed ban yesterday. The Socialist Party majority will give a final approval tomorrow during the weekly parliamentary session. The aim of the law is to prevent the Institute of which Tufa is head, from probing any crimes committed by communists during World War II.

As well as implementing a total ban on the study of this topic during that specific period, the ten socialist MPs that have put forward the law have also demanded that the 15 people currently employed by the institute get security clearance.

An explanatory note attached to the legislation states that only “trusted people” should be handling so-called “classified information”. This means that all staff will have to gain clearance from a department that is under the direct supervision of Prime Minister Edi Rama.

Tufa told BIRN that the proposed law was “typical Sigurimi techniques” and demonstrated a “Communist-era mentality”. He added that he felt that both he and his department were not being treated as an institution for history and education.

When pressed further as to why he felt the Socialist Party were taking such a stance, he explained that he had been the victim of a smear campaign started by party members, that saw the media brand him as a ‘Russian spy’. This is a familiar tactic of the ruling party who have started similar smear campaigns against foreign journalists and even EU politicians who have criticised the current government.

The Institute of the Study of the Crimes of Communism was created in 2010 and has published a number of books on Albania’s communist past.

The Socialist Party is a successor to the Communist Party of Labour of Albania (PPSH) formed in 1941 that ruled the country until 1991. PPSH changed its name to PS in the wake of the fall of communist regime in Albania. The current PS counts a number of ex–communists or communist affiliated individuals amongst its ranks. These include Speaker of Parliament Gramoz Ruci and Spartak Braho– now an MP but previously worked for the communist judiciary. Many more members of the party are the children, or grandchildren of those who held prestigious and powerful positions during communist rule.

Minister of Education during the end of the communist regime, Skënder Gjinushi recently caused controversy when not only was he irregularly voted into the position of head of the Albanian Academy of Sciences but he also made lewd sexual comments live on air to a female journalist.

A few months ago, Braho accused Tufa of insulting the anti-fascist resistance through the publication of books that claimed communist guerilla fighters committed war crimes. It was shortly after this that Braho and other MPs proposed these changes.

“But the fact that they want to suggest that I will not get the security clearance as a cause for firing me, along with the ‘Russian spy’ conspiracy theory, shows the Communist mentality and the Sigurimi techniques,” Tufa added.

The Sigurimi were the state security, intelligence, and secret police service during communism times and they suppressed political activity through the monitoring of ideological correctness. They were also responsible for “purging” the party, spying on citizens, managing prison camps, and censoring the media and schools. They also maintained extensive files including reports on thousands of individuals, statistics, and other government issued documents.

In May this year, BIRN won a legal challenge to declassify thousands of reports and statistics from the Communist era. The files, compiled by the Sigurimi had been kept classified by the State Information Service who refused to allow BIRN access to them. Another attempt to access them via the Freedom of Information Commissioner was also denied so BIRN took the matter to court, eventually winning.