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The Institute of National Remembrance – Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation (IPN) was established by the Polish Parliament by virtue of the act as of 18 December 1998. Its actual activity began in the middle of 2000, the moment the first President of the IPN was chosen by the Sejm. This post was taken by a lawyer, Professor Leon Kieres, who held it till December 2005. In 2005-2010 the function was held by Professor Janusz Kurtyka. Since 28 June 2011 Dr. Łukasz Kamiński is the President of the Institute.
The resolution on the establishment of the IPN, made by the coalition of parties, stemming from the Solidarity movement (which took over the power from the post-Communist coalition) and having the majority in the Polish Parliament, was connected with an attempt to solve the problem of documents left after the Communist State Security Bodies dissolved in 1990. This concerned the establishment of an institution which was apolitical and independent from the government.
The institution would take control over the archives of the Communist political police which were controlled by Secret Service. It would also make the documents available to people who were objects of invigilation. Earlier, citizens could not acquaint themselves with their own "files". The collected documents were also to be used in order to check the past of people who hold public positions.
The Institute of National Remembrance is a special institution having the functions of state and justice administration, of an archive, an academic institute, an education centre and (since 2007) of a body which conducts vetting proceedings.
The IPN includes the following four substantial departments which are responsible for its main actions:
- Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation
- Office for Preservation and Dissemination of Archival Records
- Public Education Office
- Vetting Office