|Exhumation in 1943 of a mass grave of Polish officers in the Katyn Forest. Germans are showing their findings to an international commission made up from POW officers from Canada, the UK and the US.|
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg has found Russian authorities guilty of degrading and inhumane treatment of 10 Polish nationals in a case on the Katyn massacre. It also said Russia breached its obligation to cooperate with the ECHR.
“As regards the group of 10 applicants [who were the closest relatives of the Polish officers or state officials killed in 1940], the court found that they had 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 because of the distortion of historical facts by the Soviet and Polish communist authorities,” the judgment reads.
“The court was struck by the apparent reluctance of the Russian authorities to recognize the reality of the Katyn massacre, [and] found it hard to disagree with the applicants’ argument that a denial of the reality of the mass murder ... demonstrated an attitude lacking in humanity.”
However, the court found it could not examine the applicants’ complaint that the Russian authorities failed to carry out an adequate criminal investigation into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of their relatives.
The ruling regards the case of Janowiec and Others v. Russia, brought to Strasbourg by 15 Polish nationals whose relatives were among the almost 22,000 army officers and other Polish nationals murdered by the Soviet secret police (NKVD) in Katyn Forest, Russia, between April and May 1940.
For decades, Soviet authorities refused to admit responsibility for the deaths, instead blaming them on the Nazis. This was until 1990 when then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev formally admitted that the executions were the responsibility of the NKVD. On November 26, 2010, the Russian parliament reiterated that the “mass extermination of Polish citizens on USSR territory during World War II” had been carried out on Stalin’s orders.
The families who brought the case to the ECHR contended that Russian authorities had failed to carry out a full investigation into the tragedy, and that the applicants were submitted to degrading treatment because they were denied information about the whereabouts of the victims for such a long time.
The ECHR ruled in July 2011 “inadmissible” complaints aiming to grant them victim status under Russian law, and formal rehabilitation of their relatives who died at Katyn.
Any party may now request that the case be referred to the ECHR 's Grand Chamber within the next three months, which would then deliver a final judgment.
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