Justice or Politics? Criminal, Civil and Political Adjudication in the Newly Independent Baltic States


Political Science and International Affairs

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A major question confronting the newly emergent democracies of post-communist Europe concerned how to deal with individuals implicated in the gross violations of human rights during the communist period – the ‘torturers’. A variety of hypotheses have been put forward by students of Central European politics to explain various approaches to ‘lustration’ (purification) adopted by different countries. However, the three Baltic states – the former Soviet republics of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – have approached the question in ways that have been overlooked by scholars in the past. The extent to which the communist system functioned as a ‘pressure cooker’ in permitting or restricting ‘voice’ and ‘exit’ appears to have been reflected in the detailed nature of the post-communist situation, which in turn affected the new regimes' response to the problem. Other explanatory factors include the use of nationalism to establish legitimacy lost by the communist system; the presence or absence of the former ‘torturers’ in the post-communist society; and the continuing existence of a substantial communist party.