European rights court to examine Katyn massacre of Poles

15th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

The European rights court Friday ruled admissible a complaint lodged against Russia by families of the victims of the Stalin-era Katyn massacre of Polish officers during World War II.

Relatives of a dozen of the estimated 22,000 Polish officers shot dead in the forest of Katyn in western Russia in 1940 brought the case to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights two years ago.

The plaintiffs accuse Russia of failing to carry out an adequate investigation into the deaths.

In a statement the court, in agreeing to examine the claims, said that the 12 Polish men at the centre of the case were police and army officers, an army doctor and a primary school headmaster.

"They were taken to Soviet-run camps and were then killed/presumed killed without trial, along with more than 21,000 others, in April and May 1940," in Katyn and Tver, both in Russia, and Kharkov, now part of Ukraine.

The first part of the plaintiffs' complaint judged admissible argues that the Russian authorities "failed to carry out an adequate and effective criminal investigation into the circumstances leading to and surrounding the deaths of their relatives."

The Strasbourg court, whose rulings are binding, also said it would hear the applicants complaint that the way the Russian authorities reacted to their requests and applications amounted to "ill-treatment" under the UN human rights convention.

The investigations concerning the victims deaths were started in 1990.

However the proceedings were halted because the mens bodies had not been identified, even though they were listed as prisoners in the relevant Soviet camps.

In 2004, Russian military prosecutors angered Poland by closing an investigation into the killings, refusing to acknowledge the massacre as either a war crime or a crime against humanity.

In April Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called the killing of thousands of Polish officers in 1940 a "crime" for which the Soviet leadership bore sole responsibility.

The Soviet leadership had tried to hide the 1940 mass execution and Russia's parliament only placed formal blame on the dictator Joseph Stalin last November.

© 2011 AFP

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