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  • Faithful to my Homeland, the Republic of Poland

     

  • NEWS 2013-2014

  • 21 October 2013

    Today the European Court of Human Rights delivered a final judgment in the so-called Katyń massacre cases (Janowiec and others v. Russia), in which it held that Russia failed to comply with the duty to cooperate with the Court. At the same time, the Court found itself not competent to examine complaints with respect to the alleged breach of the right to life. It also found that the applicants (being the relatives of the Katyń Crime victims) were not treated in inhuman and degrading way by the Russian authorities in the course of the investigation into the massacre.

    The proceedings before the European Court of Human Rights on the so-called Katyń cases, i.e. cases submitted by the Polish citizens – relatives of the victims of the Katyń Crime, against the Russian Federation regarding the unfairness of the Russian investigation into the circumstances of that crime, were pending since 2009. The Government of Poland took part in the proceedings as a third party. The Katyń cases concerned the allegations that the Russian authorities violated, within the framework of the investigation into the Katyń massacre conducted in 1990-2004, the following provisions of the Convention: Article 2 (right to life) by their failure to ensure an effective investigation and Article 3 (prohibition of torture or inhuman treatment) by denying the death of the victims or by submitting contradictory information on the fate of the relatives of the applicants in the course of the domestic proceedings. The proceedings before the Court also concerned a complaint regarding the violation of Article 38 of the Convention which requires from the respondent state to cooperate with the Court within the framework of its proceedings. In the present case the Russian Federation has refused to provide the Court with the 2004 decision on discontinuing the investigation and other source documents concerning the crime committed 70 years ago.
     
    On 16 April 2012 the Court delivered a judgment in the present case finding violation of Articles 3 and 38 of the Convention, while finding lack of its competence to examine the case under Article 2. Following the requests submitted both by the applicants and the Polish Government, the case has been referred to the Grand Chamber to be examined by its 17 judges. The hearing before the Grand Chamber took place on 13 February 2013 and the judgment was delivered on 21 October 2013.
     
    In the Grand Chamber’s judgment the Court found a violation of Article 38 of the Convention and held that Russia violated the duty to cooperate with the Court. Thus, the Court confirmed that the Russian Federation did not cooperate in the proceedings into the explanation of the circumstances of the Katyń Crime. With regard to Article 2, the Court held that it lacks the temporary jurisdiction to take a stance on the Russian investigation into the Katyń Crime, due to the fact that the period between the Katyń massacre and the entry into force of the Convention in respect to Russian Federation cannot by examined the Court. In respect of a complaint under Article 3 of the Convention, the Court - while not questioning the applicants' profound grief and distress caused by crime committed by the Soviet Union in 1940 - recalled its case law concerning the suffering of the relatives of missing persons. The Court found that in the case of the Katyń massacre, there was no doubt that the relatives of the applicants are dead. Thus, since the applicants have not been in the state of uncertainty as to the fate of their relatives from the 90s of the 20th century, the Court did not find a breach of Article 3.
     
    The Undersecretary of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Artur Nowak-Far, who was present at the delivery of today's judgment, expressed his respect for the Court's ruling, although he found it disappointing, since it does not take into account all the moral and historical arguments of the applicants. However, Minister Nowak-Far underlined the positive aspects of the judgment as well, namely, the international publicity that the Katyń Crime has gained and dissemination of the memory about that crime, which can force the Russian Federation to better cooperate on the examination of the circumstances of the Katyń massacre.

    Notwithstanding today's judgment, Poland will continue to demand from the Russian Federation legal rehabilitation of the victims of the Katyń massacre and handing over all of the case-file of the investigation into the Katyń massacre, carried out by Russian public prosecutor's office.
     

    European Court of Human Rights
    European Court of Human Rights
    European Court of Human Rights
    European Court of Human Rights
    European Court of Human Rights
    European Court of Human Rights
    European Court of Human Rights
    European Court of Human Rights

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