Alexandru Visinescu

08.05.2016 ( Last modified: 13.06.2016 )
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facts

Alexandru Vişinescu was born on 27 September 1925 in Alden, Romania. As a Lieutenant Colonel of the prison services, Vişinescu was the commander of the Râmnicu Sărat prison from 1956 to 1963, a detention centre for political prisoners until its abolition in 1963. According to accounts of surviving prisoners, Vişinescu regularly beat prisoners for his own personal satisfaction, overworked them and placed them in solitary confinement.

As commander of Râmnicu Sărat prison, Vişinescu allegedly ordered inhuman treatment of prisoners from 1956-1963 included the following: lack of medicines and medical treatment, refusal of transfers to hospital, lack of heating and other inhumane prison conditions, discretionary punishments, physical (beatings and other violence) and mental abuse of detainees, ignoring complaints made by detainees, and causing the deaths of 12 prisoners.

During time spent as commander of the prison in 1956, Vişinescu was accused of using prison inmates as personal servants, even outside of the prison itself. Prisoners were, for example, allegedly ordered to run errands and do other business for him in the city, to fix things around his home and to chop wood. Such practices were witnessed by a Colonel at the Directorate General for Prisons, who ordered small scale administrative measures against Vişinescu. Vişinescu also received a reprimand for abuses of command.

In September 1958, Vişinescu was accused in a formal report by supervisors of favouring one prisoner by speaking to him when not permitted.

Nevertheless, Vişinescu was promoted to the rank of captain on 4 January 1959 and was awarded a medal for outstanding service in the defence of the state and social order.

At the same time, Vişinescu was sent on a six-months training course in order to improve his management skills at Jilava Prison until 3 January 1960, where he met later close co-worker Ion Ficial, who now also faces trial for crimes against humanity.

Still convinced of having political prisoners at his unquestionable mercy, however, Vişinescu continued his ways unchanged.

One prisoner, sentenced to 25 years hard labour, filed an official memorandum in 1961 to announce that he would go on a hunger strike because of the conditions of detention in prison that included beatings, insults, lack of clothing, and hygiene issues, which the prisoner claimed to be against the socialist humanism of Romania’s then communist regime. In response to the memorandum, Vişinescu, as commander of Râmnicu Sărat prison, ordered solitary confinement.

Moreover, when a prison doctor ordered surgery on one prisoner, to remedy injuries due to the severity and sanitary conditions of his imprisonment, Vişinescu ordered and only allowed six days recovery.

Finally, another investigation was launched on 16 December 1963, after the dissolution of Râmnicu Sărat prison in April 1963, which confirmed the full range of offenses ordered and in respective cases committed by Vişinescu during his command of the prison such as illegal connections with former common law prisoners, love affairs with spouses or relatives of detainees, usury, the use of prison staff and detainees for personal purposes, heavy drinking.

Following the findings of the investigation, Vişinescu was obliged to apologize to the ruling communist party. While apologizing, he noted that he did not understand why he had to do so since he served the regime and the regime should protect him.

In 2006, the Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes and the Memory of the Romanian Exile (IICCMER) was set up by the Romanian government with a mission to address the crimes of the communist era that governed Romania from 1947 until 1989. After compiling an initial list containing the names of 210 former officials of the communist regime but failing to convince state prosecutors to move forward, in April 2013 the IICCMER submitted a revised list of 35 individuals, including Alexandru Vişinescu, Ion Ficior, Iuliu Sebestyen (now deceased) and Florian Cormoş.

The trial against Vişinescu began before the Supreme Court of Romania on 24 September 2014 for crimes against humanity committed in his capacity as chief security officer and commander of Râmnicu Sărat prison from 1956 to 1963. Vişinescu is the first officer of the communist regime to be tried since its fall.

legal procedure

The trial against Vişinescu began before the Supreme Court of Romania on 24 September 2014 for crimes against humanity committed in his capacity as chief security officer and commander of Râmnicu Sărat prison from 1956 to 1963. Vişinescu is the first officer of the communist regime to be tried since its fall.

In May 2007, the IICCMER filed criminal complaints against 35 individuals, which were dismissed due to statute of limitation in force. Thus, in 2012, the statute of limitations on crimes against humanity was removed by the Romanian legislative.

On 30 July 2013, a formal criminal complaint was filed against Vişinescu to the Prosecutor’s Office attached to the Military Court of Bucharest by the IICCMER.

On 9 August 2013, the Supreme Court of Romania, also known as the High Court and Court of Cassation of Romania, seized the case for reasons of complexity, volume and gravity of the case.

In August and September 2013 investigative hearings were held by the Prosecutor’s Office attached to the Supreme Court of Romania. As a result, Vişinescu was charged with genocide.

On 23 April 2014, the charge of genocide was changed to crimes against humanity and on 18 June 2014, Vişinescu was indicted before the Supreme Court.

On 14 July 2014, preliminary hearings of the case were held.

On 24 September 2014, Vişinescu’s trial began. Vişinescu denied the amended charges of crimes against humanity, maintained that he simply followed orders and pleaded not guilty. Vişinescu’s defence also expressed concern for Vişinescu’s “precarious physical and mental state”.

Nicoleta Eramia requested to join the trial as a civil party claiming damages and compensation for her father’s incarceration. Since other such requests are filed as well, the Court extended a call on the public to present their requests of joining the proceedings as civil parties.

Following a one-day hospitalization of Vişinescu on 8 October 2014, on 20 October, Vişinescu personally requested postponing the session to be held two-days later. His request, however, was denied.

On 22 October 2014, Vişinescu failed to appear in court. Vişinescu’s defence requested that the trial be dismissed owing to Vişinescu’s poor health, as well as his acting without legal representation in October 2013. The court found both arguments invalid, ordered the resolution of the issue of legal representation and consequently moved on to hearing the case in the absence of Vişinescu.

At the trial session of 22 October 2014, Eramia was granted civil party status but other such requests were denied.

Vişinescu was sentenced on the 24 July 2015 to 20 years imprisonment by the Supreme Court of Romania for the crimes against humanity he committed and ordered as commander of Râmnicu Sărat prison in Romania between 1956- 1963.

Vişinescu can still appeal the decision and will therefore not go directly to prison.

spotlight

In 2006, the Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes and the Memory of the Romanian Exile (IICCMER) was set up by the Romanian government with a specific mission to address the crimes of the communist era (1947-1989). In May 2007, the IICCMER filed criminal complaints, among others, against former prison guards before the Prosecutor’s Office attached to the Military Court of Bucharest. These complaints were then dismissed due to the statute of limitation in force.

In order to conform to the practice of the European Court of Human rights, the statute of limitations on crimes against humanity was thus removed by the Romanian legislative in 2012.

Vişinescu is the first officer of the communist regime to be tried since its fall.

Vişinescu is the first former communist prison director in Romania to be sentenced.