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Russia condemned over probe into Katyn massacre of Poles in 1940

This picture taken on June 4, 2008 shows a woman visiting the memorial museum to the 22,000 Polish prisoners who were massacred at Katyn in 1940
This picture taken on June 4, 2008 shows a woman visiting the memorial museum to the 22,000 Polish prisoners who were massacred at Katyn in 1940

European judges on Monday condemned Russia for failing to adequately investigate the 1940 massacre of more than 20,000 Polish prisoners of war, but the ruling provoked sharp reactions from Poland, which said it did not go far enough.

The European Court of Human Rights said Russia had "failed to comply with its obligations" under the European Convention on Human Rights, following a complaint by 15 relatives of the victims of the Katyn massacre in 1940.

But the court also said it had no authority to rule on the massacre itself because it took place before the European Convention on Human Rights was signed.

"We are disappointed by this ruling," said Poland's Deputy Foreign Minister Artur Nowak-Far.

"It does not acknowledge all the points of (the) plaintiffs, who have presented a huge moral and historic case, but which the (Court) did not take into consideration due to procedures."

Andrzej Melak, president of the Association of the Families of Katyn Victims, labelled the judgement "scandalous", saying it was "inadmissible and incomprehensible."

"The failure to condemn this genocide and the impunity of its perpetrators led to it being repeated in Rwanda, the Balkans and it will be repeated again. Poles will not accept a ruling like this," he said.

"A lot of water will pass under the bridge before the Russian people will take matters in their own hands to bring some order to Russia… to make it resemble Western European countries," said one of the plaintiffs, Ryszard Adamczyk.

The victims in the case were police and army officers, an army doctor and a primary school headmaster. They were taken to Soviet camps or prisons and killed in 1940, along with more than 20,000 other prisoners of war, on order of the highest officials of the Soviet Union.

They were buried in mass graves in the Katyn forest near Smolensk, western Russia, and also in the villages of Pyatikhatki and Mednoye.

A criminal investigation into the mass murders started in 1990, but in 2004 Russia decided to discontinue it and classified as "top secret" 36 out of a total of 183 volumes of files from the case.

Map locating site of World War II massacre of more than 20,000 Polish prisoners of war in 1940
Map locating site of World War II massacre of more than 20,000 Polish prisoners of war in 1940

The text of the decision to discontinue the Katyn investigation was also classified and the applicants had no access to it or any other information.

The victims' relatives lodged their complaints with the court in 2007 and 2009.

In April 2010, Polish ex-president Lech Kaczynski and more than 90 other government officials died in a jet crash en route to attend the 70th anniversary Katyn massacre memorial ceremonies.

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