Ombudsman to Join Katyn Claims in Strasbourg Court
Ewa Siedlecka 2008-11-25, ostatnia aktualizacja 2008-11-25 07:30:33.0
The Polish Ombudsman said he would join the two Polish Katyn
massacre-related claims that the European Court of Human Rights had recently
informed the Russian government about.
A claim can be joined by a 'third party' under the European Human Rights
Convention. Such a third party can be a non-governmental organisation, the
government, or precisely the ombudsman office. 'This case is important in
the context of the rights and freedoms guaranteed to individuals by the
Convention. In its background are the Polish Nation's extremely painful
experiences related to the massacre of Polish officers carried out by the
NKVD in Katyn in April 1940', write Ombudsman Janusz Kochanowski to the
president of the Tribunal section that had agree to review the Polish
claims. The claimants are descendants of two officers shot in Kharkov -
Jerzy Janowiec's son and Antoni Nawratil's grandson. Russian courts had
refused them wronged-party status in the Katyn investigation carried out by
the Russian military prosecutor's office, and the investigation itself was
discontinued in 2004 on the grounds that it had come under the statute of
limitations. Russia had decided that the massacre of 19,000 Polish officers
was not a genocide, which does not come under the statute of limitations,
but only an 'abuse of power by high-ranking Red Army commanders'. Because
the victims' families were continually refused wronged-party status by
Russian courts, they had no access to the files, nor the right to appeal
against the discontinuation decision.
Only two of the dozen or so Katyn-related claims lodged by the victims'
descendants with Russian courts had gone though the entire legal procedure,
so it was only in these two cases that a complain could be filed with the
Strasbourg court. The officers' descendants complain about the violation of
their right to fair trial and to an effective appeal - because they had been
refused wronged-party status - as well as the violation of the right to the
protection of human life, which obliges a state to fully clarify the
circumstances of any death occurred under its jurisdiction, and that the
Russian government has refused to do with regard to the Katyn massacre.
The Polish government too could join the two Strasbourg claims. But,
according to an official communiqu�, 'the Foreign Ministry and the
government of the Republic of Poland first have to thoroughly review all the
circumstances of the case'.
The Strasbourg court communicated the Katyn claims to the Russian government
on 10 October. The step is the first stage of their review. It was perhaps
the threat of Russia's Katyn investigation coming under international
scrutiny that caused the district court in Moscow to decide a month later to
accept claims from the Russian human rights organisation Memorial, demanding
an official rehabilitation of the Polish officers murdered in Katyn. Until
then, such claims had always been rejected.
translated by Marcin Wawrzy�czak
Moscow court backs refusal to exonerate Katyn officers
25/ 11/ 2008
> Print version
MOSCOW, November 25 (RIA Novosti) - The Moscow City Court backed on Tuesday
a lower court's refusal to exonerate Polish prisoners of war executed in
western Russia's Katyn forest in 1940, a lawyer said on Tuesday.
Over 20,000 Polish officers, police and civilians taken prisoner during the
1939 partitioning of Poland by the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were
massacred in the Katyn forest, as well as in prisons and other locations, by
the NKVD, the forerunner of the KGB.
The Khamovniki District Court rejected a request for their exoneration in
Last month the European Court of Human Rights agreed to consider pleas from
Yezhi Yanowitz and Antony Rybovsky, a son and a grandson of Polish officers
killed in western Russia's Katyn forest in 1940.
In 2005, the Chief Military Prosecutor's Office closed the Katyn case,
saying those involved in the executions had since died. However, the
relatives of the executed officers appealed the decision to close the case.
The Soviet Union initially accused Germany of executing the Polish
prisoners. However, in 1990 Mikhail Gorbachev officially admitted that
Soviet secret police were responsible for the massacre.
Polish purge victims denied rehabilitation
Moscow city court has turned down a plea for rehabilitation filed by
relatives of Polish officers executed during World War Two - in 1940 - at
the village of Katyn.
An earlier effort to clear the names of the victims of the Stalinist purge
was rejected by a lower district court in Moscow.
The court had accepted state investigators' arguments that files and records
of the original criminal proceedings which led to the executions were
missing, and that bodies recovered from graves had not been identified.
According to classified documents revealed in 1992, around 20,000 Polish
troops held in Soviet camps were shot dead. Later, Russian president Boris
Yeltsin offered official apologies
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