ECHR favors Latvia in final Kononov ruling

  • 2010-05-17
  • Oskars Magone

The European Court of Human rights reversed an earlier ruling which found Latvia in violation of Article 7. (photo courtesy of ECHR)

STRASBOURG- The European Court of Human Rights has supported Latvia's appeal of a 2004 ruling that found that found the country violated the basic rights of Vassili Kononov by convicting him of war crimes.

Kononov was convicted of murdering a number of villiagers in the town of Mazie Bati in 1944.

"The applicant’s unit searched six farm buildings in the village. After finding rifles and grenades supplied by the Germans in each of the houses, the Partisans shot the six heads of family concerned. They also wounded two women. They then set fire to two houses and four people (three of whom were women) perished in the flames. In all, nine villagers were killed: six men – five executed and one killed in the burning buildings – and three women – one in the final stages of pregnancy. The villagers killed were unarmed; none attempted to escape or offered any form of resistance," the ECHR said in its ruling.

The court had previously found that the Latvian court's conviction violated Article 7 of the European Convention on Human rights, which states that no person may be punished for an act that was not a criminal offence at the time of its commission.

Kononov has received strong support from Russia throughout the trial process - he was granted Russian citizenship in 2000. The Latvian foreign ministry has formally complained of Russian pressure on the court.

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia strongly condemns attempts by representatives of the Russian Federation to exercise pressure on the European Court of Human Rights... threatening remarks made by representatives of the Russian Federation should be treated as a violation of the secrecy of court deliberations and undermining the Court’s independence," the foreign ministry said in a press release.