29 July 2008

"I rode into the hamlet on a white horse..."

So bragged Vasiliy Kononov, the convicted war criminal whose appeal to the European Court of Human Rights was successful. Vilhelm Konnander has written about the recent decision at Global Voices, where I've responded (primarily with extracts from the dissents; the judgment [4:3] and the dissents are available as a .doc file here and are very much worth reading).

The Kononov case has dragged on for years. Neatkarīgā Rīta Avīze has a retrospective that includes fresh commentary from judges and prosecutors (in Latvian).

From what I wrote at soc.culture.baltics some years ago:

First, a brief précis of Kononov's crimes. He was the commander and organizer of a group of eighteen Red Partisans in a brigade called the "Little Boat" in the territory of occupied Latvia and Belarus. He organized and planned a mission of revenge at Mazo Batu sādža (the hamlet of Mazie Bati) near Ludza in May 1944, in response to a German military unit's destruction of a Red Partisan group commanded by Chugunov in February. Dressed in German uniforms, Kononov's group entered the hamlet on 27 May, when its inhabitants were preparing to celebrate the Pentecost. They divided into smaller groups and broke into the houses. One Modest Krupnikov begged them not to shoot him in front of his young son. They ordered Krupnikov to run into the woods and shot him there, gravely wounding him and leaving him to bleed to death. His cries for help were heard into the night, but the inhabitants were too afraid to give him aid. Another group broke into the home of Meikul Krupnik. Krupnik was in the sauna. They dragged him and another man from the sauna to the house, stole weapons, shot the men and Krupnik's mother, then torched the house. Krupnik's pregnant wife attempted to flee. They threw her into the burning house, where she was burned to death together with the two men and Krupnik's mother. They visited two other houses, robbing and killing. In total, they murdered nine civilians, burning six of them (including three women, one of whom was pregnant).

[The information in the above summary is from the rejection of Kononov's appeal by the Senate of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Latvia, 28 September 2004.]

I hope Latvia will appeal the flawed ECHR decision to the Grand Chamber, as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has recommended.

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