Fears grow that trial of Romanian ex-prison chief is a missed opportunity
The first trial of a Communist-era prison commander charged with crimes against humanity [IJT-168], in a case the media have dubbed “Romania's Nuremberg”, raised great expectations. But after a few months, many people in the country still struggling to reconcile with its past have voiced disappointment.
Alexandru Visinescu’s landmark trial is being handled as an ordinary criminal case. This deprives Romanian society of wider introspection into a dark past, critics say. While there were hasty trials of late dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and a few dozen of his aides in the 1990s, most dealt just with events surrounding the 1989 revolution. Visinescu's case is the first time a Romanian court is hearing about the fierce state repression of the 1950s and 1960s. Many hoped it would finally shed light on a dark period and create a historical record.
On 28 January, the seventh day of hearings began with a documentary-maker telling the court about the plight of former political prisoners. “Many of them are not alive anymore, but the ones I interviewed described Ramnicu Sarat as the most terrible jail,” said Lucia Hossu-Longin, testifying on behalf of some victims' relatives.
Visinescu, the commander of the prison between 1956 and 1963, listened restlessly. The now frail 89 year old is accused of having implemented a “regime of extermination” in Ramnicu Sarat.