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Europe's decision on Katyn raises unsolved issues

19.04.2012  |  11:57

The decision of the European Court of Human Rights on the Katyn issue evokes the most contradictory emotions, and once again raises questions that probably will remain unresolved for decades. Suffice it to say the both parties are both happy and unhappy with the verdict. As for the questions, they were classified as "secret"

The decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on the Katyn issue evokes the most contradictory emotions, and once again raises questions that probably will remain unresolved for decades. Suffice it to say the both parties are both happy and unhappy with the verdict. As for the questions, they were classified as "secret," which bewildered the court. .The basic claim of the 15 Polish citizens had to do with inefficiency, from their point of view, of the investigation of the circumstances of the Katyn massacre by Russia. The claimants appealed to Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to life.

A consequence of the article enshrined in case law is the duty to investigate the deaths of people. The reasons that made the Poles to declare the investigation of the Katyn incident ineffective and the demands to resume investigation are obvious. It is about recognizing families of victims of the Katyn massacre as victims, and the killed officers - victims of political repression. It is unclear whether only the provisions on the pension provided by law will be in effect or whether there will be demands for a more meaningful compensation. The ECHR ruled that it could not consider the complaint since Russia joined the Convention only in 1998, while the basic investigations on the Katyn case were held before the accession of Russia to the Convention, and new circumstances allowing speaking about the renewal of the investigation have been discovered after the accession. The event in question took place 58 years before Russia's ratification of the convention, according to which the ECHR was created and its jurisdiction defined. However, the court found that Russia violated Article 3 of the Convention: "No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." The court found a violation in the failure of the investigation to inform the plaintiffs about the investigation,

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the fate of their relatives, the failure of public prosecution in the rehabilitation of the victims, as well as the lack of information about the graves. However, this decision was made only for 10 plaintiffs who are close relatives of the victims.

The court ruled that the mere fact of a violation of Article 3 of the Convention in this case is sufficient compensation in connection with which Russia should cover only the court costs. The Polish were excited about the line in the decision of the ECHR where the Katyn Massacre is recognized as a war crime with no statute of limitations. However, this point raises some questions as the court based its decision on a violation of an international law operating at the time - the Hague (1907) and Geneva (1929) Conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war. However, in 1940 the Soviet Union did not formally join any of these conventions. The statement about Russia's refusal to cooperate with the court, in particular, provide a copy of the termination of the Katyn case on September 21, 2004, raise even more questions. Currently not only part of the criminal case, but also the decision to close it is regarded as classified information. The Polish side has long and unsuccessfully sought full access to the investigation materials.

The ECHR in its decision noted with surprise that it saw no reason to keep the investigation materials as classified as the investigation of crimes of the totalitarian regime cannot threaten the security of the modern democratic Russia. Especially considering that the Soviet authorities at the highest political level were deemed responsible for this crime. And here lies the most important question and most important contradiction. It is no secret that the Katyn event has long been a political factor rather than a historic event. There are findings of the Nazi commission Butz, and they contradict the conclusions of the Soviet Burdenko Commission.

In 1951, in the midst of the "cold war", a special committee of the U.S. Congress sided with Butz for political reasons. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, this view remained the main one, and all the facts that did not fit into it were ruthlessly discarded. In the years of "perestroika" and the first years of Russian independence, in the wake of revelations and a comprehensive breakdown of all covers, a number of copies of the documents allegedly proving unequivocal responsibility of the Soviet authorities for the Katyn Massacre were introduced.

However, the originals of these documents were not admitted to investigators, and there are some doubts about their authenticity. In 2010, against a background of the perceived warming of Russian-Polish relations, President Medvedev made a symbolic gesture, giving orders to put these documents in free access. But once again it was only in regard to the scans posted on the Internet. Finally, in November of 2010 the famous resolution of the State Duma was made, that held Stalin and other Soviet leaders responsible for the Katyn Massacre. On the one hand, the Russian government quite clearly expressed its position on the issue of Katyn. On the other - a number of materials are still classified as "Confidential."   It can be assumed that the materials that are still classified include the data contradicting the political stance of modern Russia. This may be the reason why "the investigation of crimes of the totalitarian regime" could damage the interests of a democratic Russia. Anton Ponomarev Pravda.Ru  Read the original in Russian.



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