Lustration and Transitional Justice: Personnel Systems in the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland

Lustration and Transitional Justice: Personnel Systems in the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland

Lustration and Transitional Justice: Personnel Systems in the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland

Lustration and Transitional Justice: Personnel Systems in the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland


How do transitional democracies deal with officials who have been tainted by complicity with prior governments? Should they be excluded or should they be incorporated into the new system? In Lustration and Transitional Justice, Roman David examines major institutional innovations that developed in Central Europe following the collapse of communist regimes. While the Czech Republic approved a lustration (vetting) law based on the traditional method of dismissals, Hungary and Poland devised alternative models that granted their tainted officials a second chance in exchange for truth. David classifies personnel systems as exclusive, inclusive, and reconciliatory; they are based on dismissal, exposure, and confession, respectively, and they represent three major classes of transitional justice.

David argues that in addition to their immediate purposes, personnel systems carry symbolic meanings that help explain their origin and shape their effects. In their effort to purify public life, personnel systems send different ideological messages that affect trust in government and the social standing of former adversaries. Exclusive systems may establish trust at the expense of reconciliation, while inclusive and reconciliatory systems may promote both trust and reconciliation.

In spite of its importance, the topic of inherited personnel has received only limited attention in research on transitional justice and democratization. Lustration and Transitional Justice is the first attempt to fill this gap. Combining insights from cultural sociology and political psychology with the analysis of original experiments, historical surveys, parliamentary debates, and interviews, the book shows how perceptions of tainted personnel affected the origin of lustration systems and how dismissal, exposure, and confession affected trust in government, reconciliation, and collective memory.


This book addresses one of the most pressing problems that new governments face in the aftermath of transition: the personnel they inherit from the previous regime. They may not be perpetrators of human rights abuses, but their prior role casts doubt on their loyalty to the new regime. For these states, a dilemma arises: should the old personnel be excluded from or incorporated in it? the new political elites have to consider whether the policies they adopt—for instance, the expulsion or retention of these tainted officials—would have a negative impact on their primary objective: democratization and establishing a stable administration. the consequences of the de-Baathification in post-Saddam Iraq have revealed the importance of effective personnel policies. Although it originally intended to establish trustworthy government by ridding the state apparatus of discredited Baathists, the policy augmented historical rifts in society as a whole. the negative social effects of de-Baathification may have undermined its primary political purpose.

Although transitional personnel policies are essential to successfully consolidate state structures and are important because of their spillover effect on social reconciliation, research in transitional justice and democratization has not given adequate attention to this topic. the variety of inclusive alternatives to dismissals that developed in Central and Eastern Europe have also been largely overlooked. While Czechoslovakia and other countries purged their administrations of the remnants of previous regimes, Hungary and Poland developed considerably more sophisticated methods for dealing with their discredited personnel. They adopted methods based on truth revelation and confession that were stipulated as conditions for inclusion. the personnel policies put into place may produce various results in terms of the people’s trust in government and social reconciliation. Consequently, in contrast to the role of electoral systems and truth . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.