Crimes Against Humanity Trial in Romania

Alexandru Visinescu

Alexandru Visinescu

Today, a former Communist-era prison commander, Alexandru Visinescu, has appeared in a Romanian court accused of crimes against humanity, in the country’s first trial of its kind.

The accused, 88, ran the Ramnicu Sarat prison from 1956 to 1963, where inmates were allegedly tortured and starved.

Mr Visinescu is the first of 35 men whom the Romanian state plans to try for similar offences.

He has denied the charges, saying that he wasn’t responsible for the rules in the prison and followed his superiors’ orders.

The trial has now been adjourned and will resume next month.

Nicknamed “the prison of silence” because detainees were held in solitary confinement, the facility housed intellectuals, dissidents, priests and others deemed enemies of the Communist Party.

Since 2006 the Romania’s state-run Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes has been gathering evidence against those responsible by exhuming graves and looking for surviving victims from a number of prisons.

About 500,000 Romanians became political prisoners in the 1950s as the country’s Communist government sought to crush dissent.