Next week, human rights judges will make known their judgement on a complaint brought by Polish relatives of 12 victims of the 1940 Katyń massacre.
They claim Russia’s investigation into the events at Katyń was inadequate and will find out on Monday, 16 April 2012 at 11h (CET) if the European Court of Human Rights agrees.
The 15 applicants in the case Janowiec and Others v. Russia (application nos. 55508/07 and 29520/09) are relatives of an army doctor, a primary school headmaster and police and army officers killed at Katyń.
Following the Red Army’s invasion of the Republic of Poland in September 1939, they were taken to Soviet camps or prisons and were then killed by the Soviet secret police without trial, along with more than 21,000 others, in April and May 1940, and buried in mass graves in the Katyń forest near Smolensk, and also in the Pyatikhatki and Mednoye villages.
The investigations into the mass murders were started in 1990. The criminal proceedings lasted until 2004 when it was decided to discontinue the investigation. The text of the decision has remained classified to date and the applicants did not have access to it.
On 26 November 2010 the Russian Duma adopted a statement about the “Katyń tragedy”, in which it reiterated that the “mass extermination of Polish citizens on USSR territory during the Second World War” had been carried out on Stalin’s orders and that it was necessary to continue “verifying the lists of victims, restoring the good names of those who perished in Katyń and other places, and uncovering the circumstances of the tragedy…”.
The Court declared admissible, on 5 July 2011, the applicants’ complaint under Article 2 (right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights, namely that the Russian authorities failed to carry out an adequate criminal investigation into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of their relatives.
At the same time, the Court joined to its examination of the merits of the complaint the issue of temporal jurisdiction, in other words, whether the Court could examine the adequacy of an investigation into events which had occurred before Russia ratified the Convention. In the same decision, the Court also declared admissible the applicants’ complaint that the way the Russian authorities reacted to their requests and applications amounted to ill-treatment under Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the Convention.
A public hearing was held on 6 October 2011.