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Europe rights court rules Romania must return property seized under Communists

[JURIST] Romania [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] must return property it nationalized during the 1950s, or else pay overdue compensation, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website; JURIST news archive] ruled [text, in French] Thursday. The judgment came in two separate cases both filed by plaintiffs alleging that the Communist regime unlawfully seized their buildings and apartments in Bucharest, the capital, and resold them, violating the owners' property rights. The court held Thursday that Romania must either return the property to the owners within 3 months, or pay both pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages. AFP has more.

Romania was under a series of Communist regimes [Wikipedia backgrounder] until 1996, when a centrist government gained power. In December, President Traian Basescu [official website, English version] told the Romanian parliament [JURIST report] that the "criminal and illegitimate" former Communist regime committed massive human rights violations and crimes against humanity, killing and persecuting as many as two million people between 1945 and 1989. The report has strengthened the cases of victims seeking compensation [Reuters report]. Romania gained entrance [JURIST report] into the European Union [official website] last month, following six years of negotiations.

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