THE EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS CLASSIFIES KATYN TRAGEDY AS WAR CRIME

The Kyiv Post on April 17, 2012, published an Interfax-Ukraine report on The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) concluding that the mass murders of Polish prisoners of war in the former Soviet Union in 1940 were a war crime, but found no new evidence requiring the Russian authorities to reopen the Katyn case. Excerpts below:

The court said on Monday, Apr. 16, it had concluded that the executions of Polish prisoners of war were a war crime, as the humane treatment of POWs and the ban on murders were a part of the conventional international law the Soviet authorities were compelled to observe. The judgment was made on the lawsuit of 15 family members of the Polish citizens executed in the USSR in 1940.

The court said that the hearing of a complaint of the breach of Article 2 of the Convention (murder investigations) would go beyond its area of activity.

The responsibility for murders of Polish prisoners of war in 1942 exceeds the case limits, it said.

However, due to the Convention and the Court’s opinion, states are bound to investigate violent or suspicious deaths, it said. It also noted that the commitment existed irrespectively of whether the death occurred before or after the Convention entered into force.

Fifteen citizens of Poland, family members of twelve Polish citizens – police and army officers, a military medic and a primary school principal who had fallen victim to the Katyn executions, lodged their claim with the ECHR.

The investigation of mass murders of more than 20,000 Polish citizens in 1940 started in 1990 and lasted until 2004 when the case was dropped. The related resolution of the Russian Main Military Prosecutor’s Office was classified.

The ECHR judgment is not final and either side may appeal for a hearing at the ECHR Grand Chamber within three months in exceptional cases.

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