Katyn Massacre should go before international courts, president urges

Leszek Szymański/PAP

The 1940 Katyn Massacre of over 20,000 Polish POWs by the Soviets should go before an international tribunal as a case of genocide, Poland's president said in a Sunday address published on social media.

Andrzej Duda said he will demand an international inquiry into the Katyn executions, because genocide does not come under the statute of limitations. 

He also pointed out that the massacre's perpetrators have never been held to account.

"Genocide does not come under the statute of limitations, so I will be demanding that this (the Katyn Massacre - PAP) is brought before international courts... This crime must finally be put to judgment, and its perpetrators named," Duda said.

"Failure to remember and punish war crimes and crimes against humanity gives their perpetrators a sense of impunity, and encourages followers, who commit similar crimes," Duda added, in an apparent reference to alleged war-crimes committed by Russian troops in Ukraine.

The Katyn Massacre was a series of mass executions of Polish POW's, mainly military officers and policemen, carried out by the Soviet security agency NKVD in April and May 1940. The killings took place at several locations but the massacre is named after the Katyn Forest in west Russia, where some of the mass graves of the victims were first discovered.

The victim count is estimated at about 22,000. The executions took place in the Katyn Forest, the Kalinin and Kharkiv prisons, and elsewhere. About 8,000 of the victims were officers imprisoned following the 1939 Soviet invasion of Poland, another 6,000 were police officers, the rest were Polish intellectuals, deemed by the Soviets to be intelligence agents and saboteurs.

The Soviets denied responsibility for the killings claiming they had been carried out by the Germans until 1990, when it officially acknowledged that the NKVD had carried them out.

Soviet responsibility for the Katyn killings was confirmed by an investigation conducted by the office of the Prosecutors General of the Soviet Union (1990–1991) and the Russian Federation (1991–2004), however, Russia refused to classify them as a war crime or genocide.