Dragan Petrovec



Resurrection of Victims in Eastern Europe

During the transition to democratic rule, a policy of impunity to former regimes guilty of massive abuses of state power is itself a form of institutionalized crime and can breed corruption of the justice system. Dragan Petrovec takes the view that vesting the victims of such abuses with state power, at least in newly emerging countries of the former Yugoslavia such as Slovenia, as well as in the former one-party Communist states in general, can also have ill effects from the standpoint of justice and crime policy. True victims–people with the courage to come out publicly with social and political beliefs that ran counter to the official line–were few in number. Faced with a choice between economic rights and political rights, a majority of citizens opted for economic rights. Victims of past abuses can and should be entitled to restitution and compensation for past sufferings. However, compensation should not include granting social power–such as making them prosecutors and judges–as often happens during periods of revolutionary change. Despite notable exceptions, such as Mandela’s choice of state-building over revenge in South Africa, Petrovec argues that experience in Eastern Europe shows a tendency for new elites to display hostility, aggression, and vengeance toward those who dare to openly disagree or those whom they treat as former opponents. He asserts, perhaps controversially, that victims of the former regime do not make the most suitable leaders, holders of public office, or creators of a new crime policy. Instead of correcting injustices of the past, their resentment proves to be too powerful and they only create new injustices. Largely for this reason, people in Slovenia and Poland have recently opted for moderate but sufficiently liberal leaders, despite their Communist backgrounds.

criminal law; criminology; law and politics; political crimes and offenses; religion and politics; Slovenia — politics; victimization

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 24: 1 (1997): 163-177