The High Court of Justice’s Prosecutor’s Office has announced that the case concerning the June 13-15 1990 Miners’ Riots has been reopened. The Prosecutor’s Office dismissed the resolutions on not commencing criminal prosecution, the High Court being set to decide whether it will confirm the decision. These measures come as a result of our country’s obligation to continue the investigations in the Miners’ Riots case, following a decision taken by the European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) in September 2014. The ECHR emphasized at the time the Romanian state’s obligation to serve justice for the victims of crimes against humanity irrespective of the time that elapsed since the crimes were committed.
Dan Voinea: Case was closed abusively
Former military prosecutor Dan Voinea stated that the case concerning the 13-15 June 1990 Miners’ Riots has been finalized since 2008, with all victims heard and all evidence administered. “All counts were established and this case has been paradoxically closed. I cannot comment on this decision. What is open to criticism apart from this abusive closing of an important case is also the fact that there hasn’t been a preoccupation with the damages caused to the economy, although prosecutors should have done it ex oficio. The guilty parties exist, they are clearly named in the file, along with the legal classification of their offenses. All those who led the 13-15 June 1990 repression,” Dan Voinea stated on Digi24.
Former President Ion Iliescu called to be held accountable
Twenty-five persons were indicted at first in the miners’ riots case, including former head of state Ion Iliescu and generals Mihai Chitac, Victor Athanasie Stanculescu and Corneliu Diamandescu.
Ion Iliescu, the head of state at the time of the riots, is among those called to be held accountable. The General Prosecutor’s Office started its criminal prosecution against Ion Iliescu in June 2007, Iliescu being accused of aggravated murder. Nevertheless, in December 2007 Attorney General Laura Codruta Kovesi dismissed the start of the criminal prosecution, arguing that procedural errors were made and the investigation in the case was ongoing.
In March 2009, the Directorate for the Investigation of Organized Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT) decided to stop criminally prosecuting former president Ion Iliescu in the miners’ riots case in which he was accused of undermining state authority, diversionary acts and communicating false information.
In June 2013 former president Ion Iliescu defended himself by stating on Realitatea TV that he is not to blame for the miners’ arrival, the riots being a spontaneous reaction of those “who saw themselves as the exponents of the advanced proletariat that set things in order.” “We had no way of stopping something like this,” the former head of state said.
Over one thousand victims
This year marks 25 years since the Miners’ Riots, an event that has left a big question mark in the Romanians’ collective memory. Back then, as a result of the violent intervention of police forces and miners against University Square protesters, Bucharest became the scene of clashes that left over 1,000 people the victims of gunshots, assaults and illegal arrests.
The violent intervention in University Square was considered the bloodiest and most brutal in manner and extent of all six miners’ riots that took place in Romania’s post-1989 history (January 1990, February 1990, June 1990, September 1991, January 1999 and February 1999).
On April 22 a series of protests that were to last 53 days started in Bucharest’s University Square. The protesters’ main demand was the acceptance of Point 8 of the Proclamation launched on 11 March 1990 in Timisoara, a point that was asking for the elimination of communist activists and Securitate officers from the country’s political leadership for a period of three terms in office. Likewise, another demand was the independence of the television and radio stations by putting an end to the monopoly that FSN exercised over them.
Several days later, on April 25, during a televised CPUN meeting, Ion Iliescu called the protesters “hoodlums.” The protesters took over the term and used it as a title of glory. Moreover, science and cultural personalities from abroad expressed their solidarity with the “hoodlums.” The Geology Faculty’s balcony became a rostrum from which personalities and simple citizens expressed their support for the protesters and their demands.
On 20 May 1990, FSN won by a landslide both the presidential elections, through Ion Iliescu, and the Parliamentary elections. Believing that the University Square protest was no longer called for in the new context, the Students’ League announced its withdrawal from the Square. Only approximately 250 persons remained in the “Area Free of Communism,” some of whom started hunger strikes. The government decided on 12 June 1990 that the next day the police, army and Romanian Intelligence Service should enforce a Prosecutor’s Office ruling calling for the University Square to be cleared. The next day, starting at 4 a.m., police forces attacked the hunger strikers in University Square. At the same time, police forces also entered the Architecture Institute and then surrounded the square with vehicles. The hunger strikers who were arrested were beaten then taken to Magurele, outside Bucharest.
Several hours later, approximately 200 workers from the Bucharest Heavy Machines Plant (IMGB), shouting “IMGB restores order,” entered the Architecture Institute where they assaulted the students present there. That same afternoon, “shock troops” dressed in civilian clothes set fire to police vehicles then led the assault against the headquarters of the Bucharest Police, the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) and the Interior Ministry.
Protesters incited by compact groups of provocateurs attacked the Public Television on the afternoon of June 13. According to Dumitru Iuga, the leader of the television’s labour union, television authorities, in agreement with political factors, interrupted the broadcast for several hours in order to induce panic among Bucharest citizens.
At the end of the day, in a speech broadcast on radio and television, Ion Iliescu called on all Bucharest citizens to defend the government and the Television. In his speech the President stated that the violent actions were plotted by extremist groups that planned a coup. Moreover, a government communiqué pointed out that the violent acts registered on June 13 were acts committed by Legionnaires, suggesting that the political opposition was not aloof from what had happened. After a day full of confrontations, the army managed to restore order during the night.
Miners, encouraged to go to University Square
Although the situation was under control, the Jiu Valley miners arrived the next day, being encouraged by Ion Iliescu from the balcony of his government to go to University Square. Groups of miners entered the University and the Architecture Institute. The students caught were savagely beaten, the labs and classes were devastated. On the surrounding streets any person that seemed, through clothes and demeanour, to be an “intellectual” was assaulted. Moreover, the miners had the photographs of the participants to the protest, printed from tape recordings. Those who talked from the University balcony were hunted down on the basis of the photographs.
Police resorted to numerous arrests at the miners’ indications. The miners entered the headquarters of some parties (PNL, PNT-CD), the homes of opposition leaders and the headquarters of independent newspapers and magazines. The miners went to the editorial office of ‘Romania Libera’ daily and stopped the publishing of the newspaper.
The June 13-15 events resulted in hundreds of injuries and several deaths. Hundreds of persons were arrested, and the arrests continued on June15 at the protesters’ employment places. Ion Iliescu convened the miners at the Expo Center, thanking them for responding to his call and for proving “high sense of civic duty.”
The international public opinion was shocked by the events in Bucharest. The main television channels and newspapers all over the world covered the violent events in Romania’s capital, the US State Department stating that “the actions authorized by President Iliescu and his government have delivered a blow to the heart of Romanian democracy.”