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
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 0924 GMT (1724 HKT)
The U.S. and several Arab nations carried out airstrikes against ISIS in Syria, intensifying the campaign against the militant group.
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 0257 GMT (1057 HKT)
Do the Chinese really like to mix their Bordeaux with Coca-Cola?
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 1413 GMT (2213 HKT)
Khorasan, al Qaeda's new branch, seeks new ways to attack America and Europe.
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 0039 GMT (0839 HKT)
Branded an "extremist" by China's state-run media, Joshua Wong isn't even old enough to drive.
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 0655 GMT (1455 HKT)
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi surprised political pundits with his rapid rise to power. CNN meets the man behind the enigma.
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 1144 GMT (1944 HKT)
Liverpool's Italian forward Mario Balotelli reacts during the UEFA Champions League Group B match between Liverpool and Ludogorets Razgrad at the Anfield stadium in Liverpool on September 16, 2014.
British police launched an investigation into abusive tweets sent to Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli.
September 21, 2014 -- Updated 2344 GMT (0744 HKT)
A woman who was texting her husband before he was killed reflects on the Westgate attack.
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 1554 GMT (2354 HKT)
The real secret to a faster commute has been with us all along -- the bus.
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 1316 GMT (2116 HKT)
13 brands retained their Top 20 status from last year, according to an annual survey.
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 1549 GMT (2349 HKT)
Think your new tattoo is cool? Look at how our ancestors did it and think again.
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 1052 GMT (1852 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