It’s been more than 30 years since Romania overthrew the oppressive regime of former Communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu.
Ceausescu kept an iron grip on the nation for almost 25 years by terrorizing Romanians with the help of a giant network of informers and secret police officers who kept tabs on ordinary people, and stifled dissent.
After the Ceausescu era, second-rank communists headed by President Ion Iliescu took office in Romania, and former secret police agents moved into politics, business and banking.
Their influence remained. Unlike some other East European nations, there was no opening of the vast Securitate archives, or reconciliation with the past.
There were occasional leaks_ sometimes it was a ploy to discredit a rival, and other times, when it was true, the allegation was met with a forceful denial.
In 1999, Romania set up the National Council to Study of the Securitate Archives to shed light on the role of the secret police. It allowed Romanians to look at their files and learn more about the organization which traumatized Romanians, and has left a legacy of mistrust among people.
At first, it only took baby steps due to the continuing influence of former agents as well as a general reluctance to confront the past.
But slowly, the council has begun to name major public officials, such as former President Traian Basescu and more recently former National Bank of Romania Governor, Mugur Isarescu. Isarescu denies the allegations.
On Friday, there was another development.
For the first time since communism ended, a former Securitate officer has indirectly admitted that he violated human rights and has stepped down as a local counselor and resigned from his political party.
Germina Nagat, a council member, said it was cause for celebration. Not one of the 2,500 former agents named by the council has ever acknowledged working for the dreaded agency or resigned after a court decision confirming collaboration.
“Maybe you don’t know it, but today is a day for celebration! I want us to celebrate together, friends and non-friends, the first case of a Securitate officer who was put on trial for flouting human rights (that’s the definition of ‘Securitate worker’), has refused to defend himself, and says we’re right!” she wrote on Facebook.
She said Sorin Bivolaru had resigned his post as a local counselor in the county of Timis, a job he’d held since the 2016 parliamentary elections and resigned from the Popular Movement Party. She published his handwritten statement.
Nagat wrote:”For the first time, a Securitate officer has admitted he violated human rights, and is not defending himself in court, citing military orders, saving the nation and (saving) Planet Earth.”
“It’s the first reaction where a former Securitate officer behaved with decency and the first time (a former officer) has resigned from a public post.”
I congratulate him and Romania’s justice system can only hope we have many more of these cases.”
Bivolaru wrote that he has worked for military counter-intelligence.