Strasbourg tribunal fails to give ruling over 1940 Katyn massacre
October 22, 2013
Deputy Chairman of the European Court of Human Rights Josep Casadevall
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg said on Monday it has no competence to judge the adequacy of Russia’s investigation into the 1940 Katyn massacre of over 20,000 Polish war prisoners.
According to the court Russia has not offered any substantive reason for maintaining a classified status of Katyn investigation and thus failed to comply with a human rights obligation to provide evidence. However the Strasbourg judges said they had no authority to assess handling of the inquiry since Russia joined the European Convention on Human Rights in 1998, eight years after the investigation was initiated.
An estimated 22,000 Polish military officers and intellectuals were killed in the spring of 1940 in Katyn, western Russia, by Stalin's secret police (NKVD). Victims were shot in the head from behind, and shoved into mass graves.
Soviet Russia only admitted to the atrocity in April 1990 after blaming the Nazi Germany for five decades. Moscow started a criminal investigation into the killings the same year, but the inquiry was discontinued in 2004 on the orders of the Russian chief military prosecutor's office. None of the culprits has ever been identified.
The European court's examination came after 15 relatives of the victims claimed that the investigation by Russian authorities into the massacre was "inadequate" and that they did not have access to any information about the inquiry results.