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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Russia high court rejects appeal in 1940 Poland massacre case
Andrew Morgan at 1:33 PM ET

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of the Russian Federation [official website, in Russian] on Thursday rejected an appeal by relatives of victims of the 1940 Katyn Massacre [Polish government backgrounder; JURIST news archive] to reopen investigations into the killings. The court reasoned [RIA Novosti report] that the Soviet-era criminal code to be applied to the killings places a ten year statute of limitations on the proceedings. A decade-long official inquiry into the killing of 20,000 Poles during the 1939 annexation of Poland was closed in 2004 due to a lack of living potential defendants and expiration of the statute of limitations. In 1990, the government of Mikhail Gorbachev [Guardian profile] admitted that Soviet leader Josef Stalin [BBC backgrounder] had personally ordered [documents, in Russian] the killings. Lawyers for victims plan to appeal the decision to the European Court of Human Rights [official website].

Last year, the Moscow City Court blocked [JURIST report] an attempt by family members of the victims to renew investigations into the killings. In 2006, the families filed a complaint [JURIST report] with the Court of Human Rights, asking it to classify the incident as genocide and compel the Russian government to disclose its information. In October the Court of Human rights agreed to hear [RIA Novosti report] a plea from family members asking that the victims of the Katyn massacre be classified as war crimes victims.

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