European court can't rule on World War II massacre

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April 16, 2012, 6:20 p.m. | Russia and former Soviet Union — by Associated Press

A monument to some 22,000 Polish officers and intellectuals killed in 1940 by the Soviet secret police in the forest of Katyn is seen in the Old Town in Warsaw, Poland, Monday, April 16, 2012.
© AP

PARIS (AP) — The European Court of Human Rights said Monday it cannot rule on whether or not Russia properly investigated a World War II massacre of thousands of Polish officers because it has not received vital documents from Moscow to properly judge the case. The court found Russia in violation of its commitments to the European Convention on Human Rights.

Fifteen Poles have complained that Russia failed to hold a proper investigation into the 1940 killing by the Soviet secret police of some 22,000 Polish officers and intellectuals in the Katyn forest and other places.

Russia discontinued its investigation in 2004. It refused to make its reasoning available to the relatives or to the European court.

In Moscow, Russia's Justice Ministry reported Monday's ruling without comment.

But Poland's government said the case shows Russia's disregard for international law.

"It is not for the first time that Russia has a problem with following the standards of a European state of law," said Justice Minister Jaroslaw Gowin said on Polish TVN24.

One of the 15 Polish relatives, Ryszard Adamczyk, said that officials in Russia have "their own laws, they disregard international laws."

In Moscow, Leonid Slutsky, the chairman of the committee in charge of relations with the former Soviet nations in the lower house of parliament, said the European Court of Human Rights had tried to walk a middle line in its ruling.

"The judges apparently sought to partly satisfy the Polish party without hurting Russia too much," Slutsky said, according to the RIA Novosti news agency. He said the issue requires deeper consideration, adding that he wasn't sure that the judges had studied all materials available.

Slutsky said the court ruling is unlikely to have any impact on Russian-Polish ties, saying that while the issue remains an irritant, relations between Moscow and Warsaw are gradually becoming more constructive thanks to economic cooperation.
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Phill M April 16, 2012, 11:45 p.m.    

The problem with 'Payback's statement is that it fails to address the difference between what happened in the 1920s from the 1940s. The Katyn Massacre was a deliberate and calculated action against the Polish by the invading Soviet forces (mostly implemented by the NKVD--which was not a military body, but a political one, which places Katyn as a political, and not a military, massacre). It was done according to a plan. The deaths of Soviet POWs in the 1920s was in the main a result of epidemic and overcrowding, and was not deliberate (though it was negligent--the Poles could have done better in their efforts to provide sanitary conditions). Yes, there were executions by the Polish, but not on anywhere near the scale committed by the Soviets at Katyn.

It should also be noted that in the Polish-Soviet war of 1919-1920, a similar number of Polish POWs (16000-20,000) died in Soviet POW camps for the same reasons--overcrowding, epidemics, poor sanitary conditions, and the occasional execution of prisoners due to their race, religion, or political beliefs.


Another interesting thing to note in is that there is not much mention of the fate of the Soviet POWs returned from Poland in the 1920s. They certainly did not receive a heroes welcome home, and a number of them were sent to the Gulags or executed as traitors of the state (it may be that the Soviet Union's inflated numbers--from 40,000 to over 100,000 POWs dying, with 70,000 being a generally accepted number--for the number of prisoners 'killed' by the Polish were a result of 'taking care' of these traitors). Given that Soviet Russia in the early 1920s was on a constant witch-hunt (though, when was the USSR not on a witch hunt?), followed by the beginnings of Stalinization, the treatment of many Soviet citizens who were either POWs or who had travelled outside of the USSR was one of constantly being watched and ostracized and even being sent to the Gulag.


By Lostness

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Phill M April 16, 2012, 11:52 p.m.    

In regards to the Investigation: Most likely it was well investigated. What may be questionable in if the report provided reflects the finding observed.

In regards to Monuments (as 'Payback' ranted about): Yes, set up a monument to the Soviet Russian POWs who died, as well as to the Polish, Ukrainian, Romanian, Austrian, Hungarian, and Jewish POWs and civilians who died in the 1920s war. do so as a reminder that was is hell, that people die needlessly, and politics and ideology is a poor judge in deciding who is right, and how might does not mean right, and that when war is the final and only option for peace and justice, that we should show mercy on our enemies when our enemies are at our mercy.

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Jaroslaw Sawka April 17, 2012, 4:35 a.m.    

Investigate Lviv, Vinnytsia, Bykivnya, Dobromyl,etc too! Lviv museum recounts Soviet massacres : Vinnytsia Day of remembrance for victims of political repression be held in Ukraine on May 17: Bykivnya : Dobromyl

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