A Cheap Sacrifice

I see that the world media is enjoying this:

In the first case of its kind since the end of the communist era in Romania, an 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 more than 50 years ago.
Alexandru Visinescu, 90, was sentenced to 20 years in jail last 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 the capital, from 1956 to 1963.

Yes, a 90-year-old man got a so-called sentence of 20 years for crimes committed more than 60 years ago. What progress!

Here’s the key graf though:

The first prison commander to face trial since Romania’s former dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu was executed in 1989, Visinescu, who was not in court to hear the verdict on Wednesday, has shown little remorse, insisting he was merely following orders and blaming the Stalinist regime of Ceausescu’s predecessor, Gheorghe Gheroghe-Dej.

That’s right. In more than 20 years since Ceausescu got his “trial”, not a single Communist-era official has ever been punished. In fact, there are plenty of other men who did things equally heinous and they’re not just living peacefully but in many cases still appearing on TV and politically influential.

Now here’s what’s missing from all these “good job Romania!” reports. Visinescu was not hiding in exile or sneaking around using a false name. Prior to his arrest, he was living in downtown Bucharest and receiving a large military pension.

In a rare exception, it was actually the Romanian media (link in Romanian) who did the legwork on finding this guy and confronting him. One of the most hilarious videos of all time is when some young scrappy journalists from ProTV tracked down Visinescu and he started cursing at them, saying he would beat their ass.

Romania’s laws on jailing elderly people are pretty lenient and it’s doubtful that Visinescu will serve much time, even if he does manage to live much longer. He’s already 90 years old and it’s pretty obvious that this conviction is little more than a show trial to finally have one incontestably bad guy from the old days pay a small penalty.

Considering that the IICCR has been in operation for 20 years and has published a ton of reports identifying living bad guys from the Communist era and Visinescu is the first and only to be convicted of any wrongdoing, I find myself unable to really celebrate this latest news.

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