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Russia court denies rehabilitation of Polish officers killed in Katyn massacre

[JURIST] The Moscow City Court on Tuesday affirmed a lower court's decision not to legally rehabilitate captured Polish officers executed in 1940 during the Katyn massacre [Polish government backgrounder], in which more than 20,000 Polish Army reservists, academics and politicians were killed in the Katyn Forest in present-day Belarus, as well as other locations. Lawyers for the victims plan to appeal [Itar-Tass report] to the European Court of Human Rights [official website]. RIA Novosti has local coverage.

Russia had previously blamed the Nazis for the incident. The government of Mikhail Gorbachev [Guardian profile] admitted in 1990 that Josef Stalin had personally ordered [documents, in Russian] the NKVD, the predecessor to the later Soviet KGB, to carry out the killings. The Polish Institute of National Remembrance [official website] has long sought to convince the Russian government to apply its 1991 law "On the rehabilitation of victims of political repression" [backgrounder] to the Katyn victims, but suits have so far been unsuccessful. Russia's own 10-year investigation of the massacre ended in 2005 when the government closed its classified files and said the crime's statute of limitations had expired. In July, 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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