war crimes in Ukraine

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Relatives of Katyń victims plan to take Russia to the European Court of Human Rights

24.04.2006    source:
Among other complaints, they claim that the Russian authorities violated the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms by not carrying out a proper investigation

Relatives of Polish Officers and civilians murdered by the Soviet security service during the Second World War intend to file a claim against Russian in the European Court of Human Rights. The BBC quotes the relatives’ lawyer who says that the case will be lodged within the next few weeks.

The relatives of 70 of the 22 thousand victims taken as prisoners of war and murdered on the territory of Ukraine and Russia are planning to file suits.

They decided to turn to Strasbourg after the investigation in Russia did not result in any of the culprits of the crime being punished. Their lawyer noted that the Russian authorities had violated the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms by not carrying out a proper investigation, despite the fact that the case had been investigated for 14 years before being terminated in September 2004.

As reported earlier, in March of this year the Chief Military Prosecutor’s Office of the Russian Federation refused to acknowledge the Polish officers shot in Katyń as victims of political repression. A copy of the letter to this effect was passed to our correspondent by the Polish Embassy in Moscow.

The Chief Military Prosecutor’s Office justified their refusal by claiming that there was no evidence that the Polish nationals had been sentenced on political grounds. Wiold Kulesza, Head of the Investigation Department of Instytut Pamięci Narodowej [The Institute of National Remembrance], adds that the Prosecutor’s office also refuses to acknowledge that the Poles murdered at Katyń on Stalin’s orders were charged under the Soviet Criminal Code. The Prosecutor’s statement is in response to a letter from the widow of one of the officers who died at Katyń. She demanded that her murdered husband be recognized as a victim of political repression on the basis of the Russian Law “On the rehabilitation of victims of political repression”. At the present time, several dozen Polish families are seeking recognition of the fact that their relatives were victims of political repression.

In 2005 the Chief Military Prosecutor’s Office refused to recognize the Katyń Massacre as genocide of the Polish people. “The case was closed as a war crime committed by officials and connected with their exceeding their duties”, the Chief Military Prosecutor, Aleksandr Savinkov, then stated. “There was no genocide. I am not going to get into a discussion on this subject.”

Approximately 2 million Poles were deported to the USSR after the Red Army invaded the eastern part of the country at the beginning of World War II. In spring 1940, around 22 thousand officers, doctors, priests being held in captivity disappeared. They were shot by the NKVD on Stalin’s orders.

German soldiers discovered one of the mass graves in the forest outside Katyń, near Smolensk, in 1943. The Soviet authorities then declared that the murders had been carried out by the Nazis. Moscow refused to acknowledge its responsibility for the mass killings right up till 1989.

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