Ex-Commander of Romanian Communist Prison Sentenced to 20 Years

Alexandru Visinescu

Alexandru Visinescu

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.

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.