Thirty-one years since the overthrow of communism, Romanians are still waiting for justice, Romania’s president said Wednesday.
President Klaus Iohannis called it ‘a shameful failure’ of the state to investigate who opened fire on unarmed demonstrators during the uprising where more than 1,100 died.
“We can’t forever allow for the Dec. 1989 Revolution to be overshadowed by a shameful failure of the state,” the president said.
“Parents, brothers and sisters and children who died on the streets of Timisoara are still waiting for justice,” he said.
Investigations have started and then been dropped many times in the past 30 years because the protagonists, particularly ex-President Ion Iliescu are still alive.
The revolution began on 16. December, 1989 in the southwestern city of Timisoara when authorities met resistance when they tried to evict ethnic Hungarian pastor Laszlo Toekes from his apartment and forcibly move him to another town.
Romanians gathered on the streets to protest at first in Timisoara and then the revolt spread to other cities. Soldiers and security forces opened fire on demonstrators in what was the bloodiest uprising against communism in Eastern Europe.
Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena were overthrown and executed on Christmas Day after a hasty trial.
Former president Iliescu, former deputy Prime Minister Gelu Voican Voiculescu, and ex-air force chief Iosif Rus were charged in 2019 with crimes against humanity for sowing the deadly chaos that followed Ceausescu’s ousting but the trial has hardly progressed.
“As communism fell in country after country throughout the region, only in Romania did the communist oppressors turn their guns on the people, average citizens who were peacefully asking the government to recognize and respect their basic rights,” U.S. Ambassador Adrian Zuckerman said Wednesday at a ceremony in Timisoara.
“ Many hundreds of Romanians paid a price…the ultimate price, to secure the freedom Romania enjoys today.
“The president said that Romanians had “a burning desire to free the nation from an un-Romanian, illegitimate and criminal regime, with bare chests and hearts full of hope, Romanians performed the supreme sacrifice. Communism was first defeated in Timisoara.”
The Ambassador said: ” Unfortunately, Romania still has work to do to remove the last vestiges of the corrupt system of communism that held its people under an oppressive boot just so an elite few could live a life of luxury.”.
“We have seen, even in recent years, how corruption affects our daily lives, from the poor infrastructure throughout Romania to the tragedies of the Colectiv and Piatra Neamt fires. Enough is enough!
President Iohannis said it was important to seek justice. “To honor the victims means to defend democracy, the rights and basic freedoms, and more importantly identify and punish those who are responsible.”
His sentiments were echoed by the Ambassador who said: “The final steps must be taken so Romania can finally realize its full potential and become a shining example to the rest of Europe and the world: a stable, prosperous and secure democracy.”