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Memorial on Katyn

Katyn: An honest Assessment of the Totalitarian Past is Essential

Source: hro.org, 05/03/10

· Human Rights Defenders

· Belarus

· Victims of Repression

· Ukraine

· Moscow City and Region

· Smolensk Region

· Tver Region

“The closing of the investigation into Katyn, the classifying of the case materials as secret, the grossly inadequate legal assessment made by the Main Military Prosecutor’s office, and the refusal to acknowledge those shot dead as victims of political repression, are perceived by public opinion, both at home and abroad, as a refusal to advance towards the truth – a rejection of a process that began in the 1990s. There have been attempts to revive the Stalinist, falsified version of events, not only in the tabloid press, but also from the rostrum of parliament. As a result, the shadow of the crimes and lies perpetrated by the Stalinist regime falls on the Russia of today…” - from Memorial's appeal to President Dmitry Medvedev.
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Appeal by the Memorial Society to President Dmitry Medvedev of the Russian Federation regarding the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre:

Dear Mr. President,

Seventy years ago, on 5th March 1940, the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, headed by Joseph Stalin, took a decision in accordance with which in April and May of that year 14,500 Polish officers and police officers held in three NKVD camps for prisoners of war in Kozelsk, Ostashkov and Starobelsk were shot without trial; a further 7,300 detainees held on remand in prisons in the western regions of Ukraine and Belorussia were also shot.

Katyn, which up until 1991 was the only reliably established place of execution of some of those executed, became the symbol of these atrocities.

The crime of Katyn is not only the killing of almost twenty-two thousand Polish citizens in spring 1940. It is also the half-century of lies and falsifications that followed, when the Soviet Union, in the face of obvious facts, denied responsibility for the execution of the Polish prisoners of war and tried to convince the whole world and its own citizens that the crime had been committed by the Nazis. The situation changed only in 1990, when Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev handed over to Polish President V. Jaruzelski lists of all the prisoners of war who were sent to their death, as well as other documents, showing that the operation to murder these Polish citizens was carried out by the NKVD of the USSR.

At the same time, a criminal investigation, case No. 159. was begun by the Main Military Prosecutor’s Office.

In 1992, by order of President Boris Yeltsin of the Russian Federation documents were released that exposed the Soviet leadership as perpetrators of the crime committed at Katyn.

The most important of these documents is a note from People’s Commissar for Internal Affairs Lavrenty Beria to Stalin with the proposal to shoot the Polish prisoners of war and prison inmates “based on the fact that they are hardened, incorrigible enemies of Soviet rule.” At the bottom of the document are the handwritten signatures of those in favour of the proposal: I. Stalin, K. Voroshilov, V. Molotov, A. Mikoyan, and notes to the effect that M. Kalinin and L. Kaganovich were also in favour.

In 2000, at the burial sites of the prisoners of war who had been shot in Katyn forest and near the village of Mednoe in Tver region, memorial cemeteries were opened (at the same time, a memorial cemetery was also opened in Kharkov). It seemed that the lies and innuendoes about Katyn had finally come to an end and that there would no longer be any grounds for mistrust towards our country.

However, in 2004 the investigation into the Katyn Case (criminal case №159) was terminated by the Main Military Prosecutor’s Office. Moreover, the basic materials of the case, including the decision to terminate it, were classified by the Interdepartmental Commission for the Protection of State Secrets, the activities of which are directly overseen by the President of Russia.

Making the materials of the Katyn case secret clearly violates the current Russian law on state secrets, which does not permit evidence about violations of human and civic rights and freedoms to be made secret, as well as breaches of the law by public authorities and their officials.

Despite this, the Main Military Prosecutor’s Office and the Inter-Departmental Commission for the Protection of State Secrets refuse, to this day, to revoke their decision regarding the classification of these materials.

To this day, the Main Military Prosecutor’s Office refuses to enforce the current Russian law on rehabilitation of victims of political repression, arguing, in the face of the evidence, that the political motive, and even the very fact of the shooting, in relation to each individual prisoner of war, cannot be ascertained.

Using confidentiality as a pretext, the Main Military Prosecutor’s Office has refused to name those whom it found guilty, stating later merely that they were “individual persons from among the leadership of the Soviet NKVD,” whose actions, in accordance with Article 193-17 (paragraph ‘b’) of the 1926 Penal Code of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, are qualified as “exceeding their authority with serious consequences in the presence of particularly aggravating circumstances.”

In this way Stalin and the Politburo members, who took the decision about the mass shooting of the Polish citizens, were found not guilty of the ‘Katyn crime’, which earlier, in a statement issued by TASS on the 13th April 1990, was named as “one of the worst crimes of Stalinism.” And the crime itself, committed on the orders of the Soviet leadership and, in effect, an act of state terrorism, is now categorised as a case involving the exceeding of authority by individual leaders at the departmental level, in other words, as a case of these individuals taking matters into their own hands.

We believe that the shooting of prisoners of war and of civilians without trial must be qualified, in accordance with paragraphs ‘b’ and ‘c’ of Article 6 of the Charter of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremburg, as a war crime and a crime against humanity.

The closing of the investigation into the Katyn case, the classifying of the case materials as secret, the grossly inadequate legal assessment made by the Main Military Prosecutor’s office, and the refusal to acknowledge those shot dead as victims of political repression, are perceived by public opinion, both at home and abroad, as a refusal to advance towards the truth – a rejection of a process that began in the 1990s. There have been attempts to revive the Stalinist, falsified version of events, not only in the tabloid press, but also from the rostrum of parliament. As a result, the shadow of the crimes and lies perpetrated by the Stalinist regime falls on the Russia of today.

Respected Mr. President, in this connection we urge you to use your authority to support the following urgent measures:

1. The rescinding of the decision of the Interdepartmental Commission for the Protection of State Secrets dated 22nd December 2004 regarding the classification of materials of the ‘Katyn’ criminal investigation №159.

2. The resumption of the criminal investigation into the Katyn case, with the aim of identification in accordance with legal procedure of all individuals who were victims of execution, both prisoners of war and detainees; establishing (in conjunction with the prosecutorial authorities of Ukraine and Belarus) the places of burial of those executed who were prisoners held in jails in western Ukraine and western Belarus; identification in accordance with legal procedure of all those guilty, including those who took the decision to shoot Polish prisoners of war and other convicts, as well as those who organized and carried out this criminal operation at all levels of authority, by means of an accurate and complete legal qualification of the crimes committed, in accordance with the norms of both Russian and international law.

3. Individual rehabilitation, in accordance with Russian law on the rehabilitation of victims of political repression, of all those who were shot by decision of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of 5th March 1940.

In April 2010, at memorial cemeteries in Katyn forest and near the village of Mednoe, joint Polish-Russian solemn ceremonies will be held to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre. It is known that Prime Minister V. V. Putin has invited Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, to take part in the ceremony at Katyn. We sincerely welcome the high governmental status of this event, as well as the fact that it was initiated by the Russian side.

Nevertheless, given the importance and sensitivity of this event, we deem it necessary that the President of Russia should personally participate in this ceremony. Or if, for some reasons, this is not possible, then the President of Russia should issue a public statement regarding the Katyn massacre.

In our opinion, a clear and unequivocal condemnation of the crimes committed by state bodies of the Soviet Union at the decision of its leaders, and a declaration about the steps planned that are necessary to bring the Katyn case out of this deadlock, could become a turning point in relations between Russia and Poland.

Such a statement is necessary, not only for the sake of Russia’s reputation in the world. It is far more important for the successful future of our country, which is impossible without an honest evaluation of the totalitarian past.

Board of the International Memorial Society
ĉ
Rights in Russia,
9 Mar 2010, 13:41
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