The Archive of the Romanian Revolution of December 1989

A Catch-22 December 1989, Groundhog-Day Production. Presenting the Personal Research & Scholarship of Richard Andrew Hall, Ph.D.

Report says Ceausescu ordered shooting By JOBY WARRICK | Jan. 10, 1990 (UPI archives)

Report says Ceausescu ordered shooting

By JOBY WARRICK  |  Jan. 10, 1990

BUCHAREST, Romania — Nicolae Ceausescu personally ordered security forces to shoot without warning at pro-democracy demonstrators last month in the western city of Timisoara, a transcript of a conversation between the former dictator and his top generals showed Wednesday.

Ceausescu warned his top military and security officials during the telephone conversation a week before his ouster that troops who disobeyed his orders would be harshly punished.

A transcript of the Dec. 17 conference call was published Wednesday by the Bucharest newspaper Adevarul, or ‘The Truth,’ which ceased publication when Ceausescu came to power in 1965 and resumed printing this month. The World Union of Free Romanians in London said the newspaper was a reliable publication.

The transcript suggests the longtime dictator was aware of the seriousness of the uprising in its early stages and also appears to show his direct repsonsibiliy for the order to fire on peaceful demonstrators.

‘They must shoot without warning,’ Ceausescu said of troops confronting demonstrators in Timisoara. ‘And for anyone who will not obey my orders the law will be fully applied against them.’

In France, five victims of the attack arrived in Marseille Wednesday for treatment of wounds received from dum-dum bullets, a particuarly lethal bullet that explodes on impact and which is outlawed under international rules of war.

Ceausescu ordered that Army and security troops, as well as border guards, be mobilized and armed for combat, with instructions to use deadly force to stop demonstrators from smashing windows or entering government property.

‘Don’t wait for further orders from Bucharest,’ he was quoted as saying in an English translation of the transcript. ‘These important instructions must be followed by everyone. If there is anyone who doesn’t do his duty report him immediately.’

A general who took part in the conference call told Ceausescu that reinforcements were already heading toward Timisoara and had been ordred to shoot.

Ceausescu referred to Lasylo Tokes, the dissident priest whose arrest Dec. 16 triggered the uprising in Timisoara, as a cult leader and said police should have clamped down on him and his supporters sooner.

‘There have been some mistakes,’ he was quoted as saying. ‘The problems should have been solved in an hour or two, but … he (Tokes) succeeded in having a lot of people around him.

‘Now we can understand clearly that it was all a pretext, and this (disturbance) had been prepared long before by elements from abroad and imperialist circles from the east and west,’ Ceausescu was quoted as saying.

Estimates of the number killed in the crackdown in Timisoara have ranged from several hundred to tens of thousands. The violence sparked demonstrations in cities across Romania which eventually led to the ouster and execution of Ceausescu.

The ruling National Salvation Front has refused to release figures on the number killed in the uprising pending a systematic count, but Silviu Brucan, a member of the Front’s executive committee, was quoted Wednesday by the official news ageny Rompres as saying the number was less than 10,000.

Interim President Ion Iliescu designated Friday as a national day of mourning for those killed in the uprising.

Iliescu said Timisoara and Bucharest would be declared ‘martyr cities,’ and memorials to the dead would be erected in both.

In Zurich Wednesday, Swiss lawyer Moritz Leuenberger said he has been asked by the new Romanian government as well as by Romanian exiles to track down funds reportedly deposited in Switzerland by Ceausescu.

Leuenberger, a member of Parliament for the socialist party, declined to comment further.

Exile groups claim Ceausescu stashed up to $400 million in Swiss bank accounts, including large quantities of gold transferred in the last weeks before his death. The Swiss government ordered banks to freeze Ceausescu family accounts just before Christmas.

A spokesman at the Romanian embassy in the Swiss capital of Bern said that Bucharest will soon formally ask Switzerland for legal assistance in tracing and securing the return of Ceausescu funds.

Under Switzerland’s banking secrecy laws, only the courts can order banks to turn over information about accounts, a process that can take years.

The five wounded Romanians arrived aboard a French Air Force plane in Marseille where they were hospitalized for treatment of dum-dum bullet wounds sustained during demonstrations in Bucharest and Timisoara. Dr. Richard Domergue, a health service official, said the five — four men and a woman ranging in age from 20 to 35 — were ‘hit by dum-dum bullets provoking large wounds and are suffering from serious functional problems but nothing life-threatening.’

Dum-dum bullets, outlawed at a laws of war convention at The Hague, explode on impact causing huge wounds. Domergue said they apparently were shot by Securitate secret police.

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