Russian official welcomes European court ruling on Katyn massacre

Katyn Memorial Site

(Interfax – October 21, 2013) Russia’s representative at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has welcomed the court’s ruling on Russia’s handling of its investigation into the 1940 Katyn massacre of more than 20,000 Polish prisoners-of-war by the Soviet secret police, the privately-owned Russian news agency Interfax reported on 21 October.

European Court of Human Rights Building file photoEarlier in the day the ECHR ruled that Russia had failed to explain why it kept key files secret during its investigation, but ECHR judges also said that the court had no authority to rule on the killings. Georgiy Matyushkin, who is a deputy justice minister as well as being Russia’s ECHR representative, told the privately-owned Russian news agency Interfax that he was satisfied with the ruling.

“I believe that today’s ruling by the ECHR Grand Chamber is more consistent and logical. The point is that, seeing as the court has decided that it does not have the authority to examine Article 2 (of the European Convention on Human Rights) in procedural terms – the court does not have obligations under the convention to investigate the events at Katyn – it follows that it is illogical to talk also of liability under Article 3 in connection with the allegation that applicants were not treated properly,” Matyushkin said.

“The decision on such a complex issue as this came about because the court decided to adhere more closely to the criteria of acceptability, and is not trying to widen its competence,” he went on.

“From the start the Russian authorities said that, from the standpoint of the criterion of time, these events fall outside the purview of the European court. And this point of view was accepted by the European Court,” he added.

Among others welcoming the ruling was Russian Communist MP Sergey Obukhov. “The vestiges of common sense and legal consciousness did their job,” Obukhov said, in remarks reported by the news agency of the Gazprom-owned, editorially independent Russian radio station Ekho Moskvy. “None of these issues falls within the ECHR’s jurisdiction.”

But Yan Rachinskiy, an activist for Russian human rights group Memorial, urged the Russian authorities to declassify all the files relating to the massacre. “This would relieve what has for a long time been a great burden on relations between Russia and Poland, and would improve Russia’s image,” he said in remarks also reported by the Ekho Moskvy news agency. “The fact that these things have not been completely clarified gives rise to doubts about our government’s commitment to democratic norms.”