26 December 2009

Is justice only for those who deserve mercy?

One of the strongest images I remember from the revolutions that swept Eastern Europe 20 years ago was the television pictures of the bloodstained bodies of the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu and his wife Elena after they were gunned down following a so-called trial in which they were sentenced to death. They were told they had 12 days to appeal but that the sentence would be carried out immediately. Of course they themsleves were responsible one way or another for the deaths of countless Romanians, but is this a reason for such a process devoid of humanity or justice? It was certainly a jolt back to reality after the dreams of the peaceful revoution in East Germany and the velvet revolution in Czechoslovakia.

Over on the BBC Web site, Nick Thorpe, a long-standing Budapest-based eastern Europe watcher has an interview with General Victor Stanculescu who says the executions were both "just and necessary": "If we had left it to the people of Bucharest, they would have lynched them in the street." Still 20 years later much remains unexplained about the events in Romania, one of the indicators being that the general himself has recently begun a 15-year prison sentence for aggravated manslaughter - charges he has always denied - after being found guilty of ordering troops to open fire on the crowds in the western Romanian city of Timisoara earlier in December and which was one of the events that led to the revolution later that month.

The TimesOnline has an interview with one of the soldiers who carried out the killing of the Ceauşescus, but be warned, it makes for very grisly and unpleasant reading. The TimesOnline article also quotes the prosecutor against the Ceauşescus as saying: "I have been one of those who, as a lawyer, would have liked to oppose the death sentence, because it is inhuman. But we are not talking about people."


Jane said...

I remember how visibly shaken you were by the news about their killing. You kept saying that it didn't respect due process or resolve anything.

janetlees said...

Yes, I too remember talking to you both about this. It didn't appear to solve anything, just added to the layers of disorder (of the not so holy sort) that had been heaping up there for so long. It's still chilling.

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