European Court Rules Against Russia on 1940 Katyn Massacre
The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Monday that Russia had violated the rights of relatives of Poles who were killed by the Soviet secret police in 1940, and described the Katyn massacre as a “war crime”.
The ruling followed a complaint by 15 descendants of 12 victims over the adequacy of Russia’s enquiry into the massacre, in which some 22,000 Polish officers and intellectuals were murdered without trial, often by shooting them from behind.
“(The applicants) suffered a double trauma: losing their relatives in the war and not being allowed to learn the truth about their death for more than 50 years,” the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) said in a statement.
“It (the court) found that the mass murder of the Polish prisoners by the Soviet secret police had been a war crime.”
After initially blaming the killings on Poland’s wartime Nazi occupiers, the Soviet Union accepted responsibility in 1990, beginning an investigation that was abandoned in 2004.
In recent years, Russia has released some documents regarding the massacre and the later investigation, but others still remain classified and inaccessible to the Polish side.
The 1940 Katyn massacre remains a stumbling block in ties between Warsaw and Moscow.
Poland, which has campaigned for the release of full lists of victims and their legal rehabilitation, welcomed the ruling.
“It is an important fact that the Katyn massacre is now recognized as a war crime in the understanding of international law,” said Marcin Bosacki, a spokesman for the Polish Foreign Ministry in Warsaw.
The Strasbourg-based court said Russia had breached Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights prohibiting inhumane treatment by failing to provide 10 of the relatives with details of the deaths and of its investigation into the massacre.