Romania's government calls for sanctions against the former communist prison commanders.
By Paul Ciocoiu for Southeast European Times in Bucharest -- 24/09/13
A sculpture "The Cortege of the Sacrificial Victims" by artist Aurel Vlad, to commemorate victims of the communist repression in Romania, is seen at a former communist era prison in Sighetu Marmatiei. [AFP]
Romania's Superior Magistrates Council approved a draft law that would force the Communist-era prison commanders to pay compensation to their victims.
The approval came two days after the hearing of retired Lieutenant Colonel Alexandru Visinescu, 87, a former chief of the Ramnicu Sarat labor camp where the pre-Communist elite and intellectuals were incarcerated. Under his command, prisoners were held in inhumane conditions that eventually led to the death of several political prisoners, prosecutors said.
Visinescu, who ran the prison in 1956-1963, is the first Romanian to face charges of genocide since former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, prosecutors said. If convicted he will face life in prison.
The prosecutors launched a criminal investigation against Visinescu following the request submitted by the Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes and the Romanian Memory of Exile (IICCMER).
On September 18th, the institute submitted another request that implicates retired Colonel Ioan Ficior, 85, former chief of the Periprava prison in 1958-1963, of genocide.
Visinescu and Ficior are the first among 35 former Communist commanders IICMER has identified so far, institute spokeswoman Adriana Niculescu told SETimes. All of them are former employees of the communist-era penitentiary system, she said.
Some question the timing of these prosecutions, but the institute defends its actions.
"It is never too late," Niculescu said. "They have to account before the law, it is a matter of principles, which helps us as a whole society to heal."
President Traian Basescu and Prime Minister Victor Ponta agreed that former commanders should face justice for crimes they may have committed.
A new law stipulates convicted former communist torturers to pay their victims or victims' families from 20 percent to 70 percent of their monthly income for a maximum period of five years, but no less than two years.
According to official statistics, the former communist prison commanders receive a pension of 6,000 lei (1,340 euros) every month, which is 10 times higher than the average pension of their victims.
"In any case, this is not moral reparation to us," Octav Bjoza, president of the Association of the Former Political Detainees told SETimes. "But has rather an educational role for the younger generation so they get to know the truth that has been hidden from us for so long."
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