The Grand Chamber of the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg recognized the violations made during the criminal sentencing of Vasily Kononov, a former Soviet partisan. Now the legitimacy of the judgment of the court in Strasbourg, which had previously agreed with Latvia's arguments and found the WWII veteran guilty of war crimes, can be called into question.
The case of Vasily Kononov became one of the most controversial ones in the history of European justice. The story began in 1998, when the man was arrested in Latvia and charged with war crimes and genocide during the Great Patriotic War.
The case is about the events, which took place at the end of February and in the beginning of March of 1944 in the settlement of Maliye Baty in the east of Latvia. A group of partisans under the command of Major Chugunov stayed there to bed down. The next morning, the group did not go on for a radio contact with other partisans. As it turned out, someone had produced data about the group of Russian partisans to Nazis. The latter entered the village and destroyed the group.
The comrades of Chugunov's group, with Vasily Kononov among them - were staying in another village nearby. They decided to take revenge on the deaths of their friends. The partisans put on German uniforms, went to the village, found out the names of nine people, who assisted the Nazis and executed them by shooting. There were women among the traitors too; one of the women was pregnant.
The Latvian court formulated it as a war crime - the murder of civilian citizens of the republic committed by an associate of Soviet occupants, Vasily Kononov.
In 2000, the court sentenced the veteran (the man was 77 years old ten years ago) to six years in jail. A year later, the Supreme Court of Latvia decided to release Kononov and to deliver the case for supplementary investigation. In 2003, the court dropped war crime charges against the Russian man, but retained charges of banditism. A year later, the Latvian Supreme Court repeatedly found the partisan guilty of war crimes, but sentenced the defendant to a much shorter prison term - 20 months.
The absurdity of the indictment was obvious. The anti-fascist veteran was put on trial for destroying the associates of Nazi Germans. It is a gross violation of all possible documents regulating the post-war European structure. However, for Latvia, where SS veterans were glorified as 'national heroes' after the collapse of the USSR, and the Red Army and its veterans were labeled as 'occupants,' it is routine practice.
In 2004, Kononov filed a lawsuit at the European Court for Human Rights claiming a compensation of 30,000 EUR and demanding his acquisition. Russia took Kononov's side, since the former partisan declined the Latvian citizenship in 2000 and became a citizen of the Russian Federation.
On June 19, 2008 the European Court for Human Rights sustained the veteran's claim and ordered Latvia to pay the 30,000-euro compensation to Kononov. The Latvian authorities filed a complaint at the Grand Chamber of the ECHR. On May 17, the Grand Chamber found the veteran guilty of war crimes. The decision, despite controversy, seemed to be final.
However, Kononov's Russian lawyer Mikhail Ioffe paid attention to violations made by the Grand Chamber during the sentencing. For example, the lawyer claims that a judge from the Czech Republic is indicated on the list of 17 voters, although the judge did not take actual part in the voting process.
"The decisions of the Grand Chamber are not the ones that can be revised. But if there are serious violations, one can file a request to revise a decision, it is legally allowed. In this case there are violations . New details have emerged . For example, the ruling on the case of Kononov had been made on the ground of incorrect translation. The court said that Kononov had executed prisoners of war by shooting, although even Latvian courts had not charged him with that. The case in Latvia was about executing civilians," lawyer Mikhail Ioffe said in an interview with RIA Novosti.
Mikhail Aleksandrov, a senior expert with the Institute for the Baltic States, told Pravda.Ru that the Grand Chamber of the European Court for Human Rights would most likely not revise the sentence.
"It's not about Latvia here, it's the matter of Russia's relations with the Strasbourg Court. The court is biased towards Russia, one can see that with the naked eye. Nearly all cases pending there do not end in Russia's favor. Maybe Russia could go beyond its jurisdiction. The Kononov case is a very good reason to do that. It's interesting that tens of thousands of people were killed as a result of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during WWII. However, neither the court in Strasbourg, nor The Hague Tribunal hurry to condemn the Americans. With Kononov - they do.
"The logic of the West, especially of the USA, regarding Nazi manifestations in the Baltic States is very strange. A US ambassador to Latvia laid flowers to the monument of war victims in Riga on Victory Day, but his colleague in Estonia delivered a speech on July 31 praising SS meetings and labeling Nazi criminals as fighters against communist plague. These were the remarks from an official representing a member of the anti-Hitler coalition," the expert said.
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