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Russia shows 'callous disregard' in Katyn massacre case, court says

April 16, 2012 | 11:44 am

Russia's refusal to cooperate with the European Court of Human Rights in exposing a 1940 war crime that killed 22,000 Poles in the Katyn forest shows "callous disregard" for the victims and their relatives, the court said in a ruling
Russia's refusal to cooperate with the European Court of Human Rights in exposing a 1940 war crime that killed 22,000 Poles in the Katyn forest shows "callous disregard" for the victims and their relatives, the court said in a ruling Monday.

The court, based in Strasbourg, France, said it couldn't address the demands for full disclosure on the massacre because Moscow has refused to hand over the results of a 14-year investigation into the killings, which were ordered by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin after the Red Army invaded Poland in September 1939.

"The court was struck by the apparent reluctance of the Russian authorities to recognize the reality of the Katyn massacre," the judges said in their ruling, which was posted on the court's website.

The Russian government launched an investigation in 1990 into the massacre of Polish military officers and intellectuals taken prisoner during the invasion and spirited to prisons and camps in western Russia. The probe was halted in 2004 and its findings were classified.

Responding to the demands of victims' relatives for reports on the investigation and the rationale behind shutting it down, the court ordered Moscow to turn over the still-secret 2004 report concluding the review, an order the Russian government refused on grounds of national security.

The court "could not see any legitimate security considerations which could have justified the keeping of that decision secret," the ruling said, noting that the Russian parliament had acknowledged in 2010 that Stalin ordered the summary executions carried out by agents of the dreaded NKVD secret police.

Russia's RIA Novosti news agency focused on an accompanying jurisdictional ruling by the court: Because the killings took place before Russia joined the convention on human rights that brought about the Strasbourg court, the jurists had no authority to order further investigation.

Polish Justice Minister Jaroslaw Gowin said the ruling underscored Moscow's disregard for international law and disinterest in fully exposing and putting to rest a painful World War II atrocity.

"It is not for the first time that Russia has a problem with following the standards of a European state of law," Gowin told Poland's TVN24.


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-- Carol J. Williams in Los Angeles

Photo: In an Oct. 31, 1989, remembrance, a woman mourns victims of the 1940 massacre of Polish officers and intellectuals ordered by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. Credit: Wojtek Druszcz / AFP/Getty Images