Skip to main content

European court rebukes Russia for WWII massacre of Polish soldiers

From Richard Allen Greene, CNN
October 21, 2013 -- Updated 1103 GMT (1903 HKT)
A woman points to the name of her killed relative at the Monument dedicated to Polish victims of the 1940 Katyn massacre.
A woman points to the name of her killed relative at the Monument dedicated to Polish victims of the 1940 Katyn massacre.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Court says it doesn't have authority to rule because incident timeline
  • 20,000 Polish soldiers are murdered at point blank

(CNN) -- The European Court of Human Rights declined Monday to rule on the key points of a claim against Russia by relatives of victims of the 1940 Katyn massacre, but did rebuke Russia for refusing to hand over all of its files on the incident.

The court said it did not have the authority to rule on whether Russia had deprived the victims of their right to life because the World War II massacre happened before Russia joined the European Convention on Human Rights.

Russian lawmakers say Stalin ordered massacre of Polish soldiers

It also said the facts of the massacre were well established as a matter of historical record.

The World War II massacre, in which an estimated 20,000 Polish officers were murdered at point blank in the village of Katyn, tainted Russian-Polish relations.

For decades, the Soviet government blamed the killings on Nazi Germany.

Read more: Why Poland's grief is doubled

In 1990, Russia finally admitted to what many in Poland had long suspected: The Soviet Union secretly murdered as many as 22,000 Polish soldiers and civilians in the early days of World War II in an attempt to pre-emptively suppress a Polish rebellion against communist rule.

That year, Russian prosecutors also launched a criminal case into the killings, but that case was closed in 2004. Since then, the country has handed over some investigation files to Polish officials.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
October 28, 2014 -- Updated 1443 GMT (2243 HKT)
A captured fighter tells CNN's Ivan Watson: "They gave us drugs... that made you go to battle."
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 1331 GMT (2131 HKT)
A terminally ill woman who plans to take her own life checks off the last item.
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 2340 GMT (0740 HKT)
In a plot straight out of Hollywood, federal agents gain access to a suspected Triad boss' Vegas hotel room by pretending to fix the Internet connection.
October 31, 2014 -- Updated 0434 GMT (1234 HKT)
Was it only black and Latino men who harassed a woman in NYC? The filmmaker has found himself in a race controversy.
October 31, 2014 -- Updated 0317 GMT (1117 HKT)
The history of human rights often overlooks the struggles of gay people. This must change.
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 0115 GMT (0915 HKT)
Armed with Kalashnikovs and chanting for the dead comrades, women are among ISIS' most feared enemies. They are fighting for their families -- and now they are getting U.S. help.
October 28, 2014 -- Updated 1246 GMT (2046 HKT)
Lere Mgayiya put his best foot forward and set up a shoe-shine firm after his career plans fell flat.
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 0528 GMT (1328 HKT)
One Chinese drone manufacturer wants to take away the warmongering stigma of "drones."
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 0312 GMT (1112 HKT)
Sketcher Luis Simoes is traveling the world -- slowly. And he's packed his sketchbook.
October 28, 2014 -- Updated 2043 GMT (0443 HKT)
European states help North Korea's brutal treatment of its people by allowing luxury goods like cars and cognacs to evade sanctions, two experts say.
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 0345 GMT (1145 HKT)
Chinese leaders want less odd architecture built in the country.
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 1106 GMT (1906 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT