Prague, 14 August – The Platform of European Memory and Conscience (PEMC) welcomes the initiative led by the Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes and the Memory of the Romanian Exile (IICCMER), which opens an investigation in Romania to identify cases and border guards who killed unarmed civilians who tried to flee the country during the Communist regime.
Between 1948 and 1989 thousands of Romanians tried to leave the country. The only way they could leave was illegally as foreign travel was banned for the majority of society. They would flee to the free world by land or over the Danube River through then-Yugoslavia or Hungary.
“We don’t have exact statistics, but we are certainly talking about thousands of people who lost their lives, shot by border officers while trying to leave for the West,” said Ms Alexandra Toader, the President of IICCMER.
“It is very important to identify all victims and to document all cases of those civilians whose journey to freedom was stopped by the bullets of the Communist regimes. This is part of our common European legacy and it shows very clearly that human rights were only empty phrases for the Communist regimes,” said Peter Rendek, managing director of the PEMC.
The IICCMER has reports that in 1989 alone approximately 50,000 attempts to cross the border occurred. Since its beginning, the Romanian IICCMER is also taking part in PEMC Justice 2.0 project, which focuses on the Iron Curtain cases, and the purpose of which is to raise international awareness about the issue of unpunished international crimes of Communism and to contribute to finding ways of achieving international justice for these crimes.
Since 2019, the PEMC has been documenting further cases of victims of the Iron Curtain (killed, injured, imprisoned) in cooperation with its Polish partner Centrum Historii Zajezdnia, Wroclaw.
Brief chronology of the project:
- 2014 – 2015 – launch of the Justice 2.0 project
- 21 February 2017 – Polish prosecutors investigating former Czechoslovak politburo member for killings on the Iron Curtain
- 13 March 2017 – Breakthrough court ruling in Bratislava: Killing of refugee was a crime, family has a right to compensation
- 27 March 2017 – German prosecutors call killing of refugees on the border of the ČSSR an international crime and suggest liability for murder for the responsible commanders. Thus the acts have not expired
- 21 September 2017 – Platform files criminal complaint against last surviving Czechoslovak politburo members Jakeš, Štrougal, Colotka and further persons for killing on the borders
- 6 November 2017 – Call on former East German refugees arrested in Czechoslovakia until 1989 to apply for rehabilitation and compensation
- 13 December 2017 – Bavarian state criminal investigation office Munich starts investigating killings of German refugees on the Iron Curtain in former Czechoslovakia
- 11 May 2018 – First rehabilitation in the Czech Republic for German who attempted to escape across the Iron Curtain
- 31 January 2019 – The Ministry of Justice of the Czech Republic for the first time compensated a former German Democratic Republic citizen for injury caused by the Czechoslovak Border Guards
- 5 August 2019 – Czech-German Joint Investigation Team Established for Killing East German Refugees on the Border of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic
- 27 November 2019 – Czech Police launch investigation into former high-ranking Communist officials for shootings on the borders
- August 2020 – Romania opens an investigation into the killings on the former Iron Curtain.