Russian Court Laughs in Katyn Victims' Face
Waclaw Radziwinowicz, Moscow
2008-05-28, ostatnia aktualizacja 2008-05-28 08:49
Only those killed in Katyn could personally apply to be recognised as victims of political reprisals and rehabilitated. Their descendants don't have that right, a court in Moscow said yesterday.
Wiosna 1940 r. NKWD zamordowalo 25 tys. polskich oficerów, policjantów, strazników granicznych, urzedników i fabrykantów. Na zdjeciu: portrety ofiar w Muzeum Katynskim w Warszawie
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Descendants of ten Polish officers murdered by the NKVD in Katyn in the spring of 1940 are demanding from Russia's Chief Military Prosecutor's Office that they are recognised as victims of political reprisals and officially rehabilitated.
The prosecutor's office replies it cannot do that, because there is no conclusive proof that the 25,000 Polish army and police officers, border guards, officials, and business owners were murdered on the basis of an unfair ruling issued by a Soviet court.
Indeed, there's no such proof, and there won't ever be. The executions were carried out on the basis not of a court sentence, but a decision of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolshevik) Central Committee's Politburo dated 5 March 1940, which stated explicitly they were to be shot 'without interrogation, without charges, without an investigation, and without an indictment'.
The Katyn victims' relatives appealed against the prosecutor office's decision through their Moscow lawyers to the district court in Moscow Khamovniki. The court issued a ruling on 16 May, and the official writ has just reached Poland.
Judge Igor Tulenev answered the Katyn victims' relatives in a style similar to that used earlier by the military prosecutor's office: 'The literal interpretation of the meaning of the Article 8.1 of the Russian Federation's Act on the Rehabilitation of the Victims of Political Reprisals is such that only the citizens whose rights have been directly violated are entitled to appeal against the [Military Prosecutor's Office's] decision'.
'The judge told us clearly: only the victims would be able to appeal against the prosecutor's absurd decision. Their children don't have the right to demand justice', said Anna Stawicka, counsel to the families of the Katyn victims in Russia.
'It is a cynical and stupid legal trick. The Article 8.1. cited by Judge Tulenev applies only to those relatives of the victims of communist crimes who suffered in the past because of the reprisals against their family members and are now demanding compensation, not to people asking for justice for murder victims', said Alexander Guryanov at the Memorial historical and civil rights society. It has long urged Russia to account for its communist crimes.
'The decision of the Khamovniki court is yet another example of how far in absurdity the Russian judiciary is prepared to go. Four years ago, the Chief Military Prosecutor's Office closed its Katyn investigation due to the "perpetrators' death", but it withheld their names, protecting the executioners', said Andrzej Skapski, president of the Federation of Katyn Families and someone whose father died in Katyn. 'Me and the Federation's other members want one thing only - to end this dreadful game with the Russian courts as soon as possible. During the Mikhail Gorbachev era, Russia admitted that Katyn was a Stalinist crime. President Boris Yeltsin apologised for it, and Poland received some of the Russian archival documents concerning the crime. But Katyn remains a sensitive subject in Russia. Nezavisimaya Gazeta warned recently that the rehabilitation of the Katyn victims would cost Russia $22 billion in compensations for their descendants. And that this is precisely what they want.
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