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Post-war Soviet persecution of Lithuania partisans not genocide — ECHR ruling

October 21, 2015, 15:26 UTC+3 VILNIUS
About 50,000 Lithuanians participated in the anti-Soviet resistance movement following World War II
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VILNIUS, October 21. /TASS/. The persecution of members of the so-called post-World War II resistance - Lithuania’s national anti-Soviet armed underground - cannot be considered genocide, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on Wednesday.

According to ECHR, no one can be convicted for acts which at the time of their commission were not regarded criminal by the country’s internal laws of international law.

ECHR considered an appeal lodged by citizen of Lithuania Vytautas Vasiliauskas who was convicted for genocide. As a member of the Soviet law enforcement agencies, in 1953 he participated in the deportation from Lithuania of one of the participants of the armed underground. According to ECHR, the verdict was based on the provisions that were not in force in 1953.

According to ECHR, Vasiliauskas could not have been sentenced according to laws that were not in place in 1953. In sentencing Vasiliauskas for genocide, Lithuania violated the European Convention on Human Rights which protects people against retroactive application of law.

The Lithuanian Constitutional Court issued a clarification in 2014 according to which, the deportation and repressions of the Soviet period could be equated to genocide - the desire to destroy a significant part of the Lithuanian nation. However, the ECHR judges were unconvinced that the partisans represented the Lithuanian nation and that actions against them could be equated to genocide.

According to experts, the decision of the ECHR may create an important precedent in the consideration by Lithuanian court of cases of persecution of the members of the post-war "resistance movement."

The ECHR ruling could provide an important precedent in judging Soviet crimes. While international law defines genocide as actions aimed at eliminating a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, Lithuania's jurisprudence accepts a wider definition of the term which also covers social and political groups. Lithuania's Constitutional Court has ruled that the country has the right to extend the definition of genocide, but cannot apply it retroactively.

Experts disagree on whether Soviet repressions in Lithuania should be called genocide. During the German occupation of Lithuania in 1941-1944, Nazis and local collaborators killed some 90% of the 208,000-big Jewish population in the country.

About 50,000 Lithuanians participated in the anti-Soviet resistance movement following World War II. Approximately 20,000 partisans were killed during the course of the campaign, together with nearly 13,000 Soviet security officers and over 2,600 pro-Soviet civilians. The campaign also resulted in the forced resettlement of over 130,000 Lithuanians to other parts of the Soviet Union, mostly to Siberia, where as many as 20,000 died due to poor living conditions.

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