Another grotesquely surreal judgment from a Russian court over Katyń


On 22 January the Khamovnichesky District Court in Moscow examined the application lodged by “Memorial” on behalf of relatives of victims of the NKVD murdered at Katyń. They are trying to force the Chief Military Prosecutor’s Office to undertake the rehabilitation of the Polish officers murdered in 1940.

Military Prosecutor Alexander Kosmodemiansky asserted in court that it was impossible to establish through the courts whether the Poles were entitled to rehabilitation since there were no formal acts of criminal investigation and court hearings at which the men were sentenced to death. And supposedly without these documents it was impossible to establish whether they had been victims of political repression.

The Memorial representatives explained that the documents did not exist since the Poliburo had taken the decision to execute the 22 thousand men without court or investigation. After the War the personal files of the victims had been held at Lubyanka (the headquarters of the NKVD/KGB/FSB), however the head of the KGB Alexander Shepelin had ordered them destroyed in 1959 to avoid “possible divulgence [“dekonspiratsia”) of our operation”)

Kosmodemiansky maintained that “the mere fact of death is not proof that it was repression”. His view was further developed by Judge Igor Kananovich who stated that if bodies lie in a common grave with skulls with gunshots, one cannot assert that they were executed, but merely that guns were used.

The Memorial appeal was rejected. 

Alexander Gurianov from Memorial stressed that by rejecting not only rehabilitation, but even a simple examination of the case, they were complicit with those who tried to cover up the crime.

As reported here (see the links below), this is by no means the first setback in recent times. At present the European Court of Human Rights has begun dealing with the first claims lodged by relatives of the victims refused rehabilitation.

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