A Romanian Appeals Court in Bucharest has upheld a jail sentence against a prison commander convicted of crimes against humanity for the death of 12 political prisoners between 1956 and 1963.
Alexandru Visinescu, 90, was sentenced to 20 years in jail last July after being found guilty of running “a regime of extermination” at the jail outside the small town of Râmnicu Sărat, 90 miles east of Bucharest.
Nicknamed “the prison of silence” because the prisoners were held in solitary confinement, the facility housed intellectuals, dissidents, priests and others deemed enemies of the Communist Party.
The prisoners were subjected to regular beatings, severely underfed, and denied access to medical treatment.
At least 14 inmates died while many more were permanently disfigured or traumatized during the seven years Visinescu was in charge of the jail
The ruling marks a significant moment in Romania’s efforts to try communist-era figures accused of wrongdoing. While a handful of top officials were convicted of genocide in the 1990s, most of the charges were later reduced and many of those found guilty were released on health grounds.
According to the Institute for Investigation of Communist Crimes and Memory of Romanian Exile (IICCMRE), which initiated the case against Visinescu, up to 2 million Romanians were killed, unjustly imprisoned, deported or relocated during nearly half a century of communist repression.
The IICCMRE has a list of 35 prison officials who it says have committed crimes. The Institute blames corruption for the fact that so far only Visinescu has been sentenced.