ECHR upholds convictions of KGB men

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has thrown out complaints by two Soviet-era officials who had complained of being convicted in Latvia on charges of crimes against humanity and aiding genocide.

The decision released WEdnesday, which is final, unanimous and not subject to appeal, concerns the cases of Larionovs v. Latvia and Tess v. Latvia.

"The applicants complained that the criminal law had been retroactively applied in the proceedings against them in connection with their acts during the mass deportation of Latvian inhabitants to remote places of the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) in March 1949," the ruling in Strasbourg reads.

"The Court found in particular that Mr Larionovs and Mr Tess, the applicants, had failed to lodge a constitutional complaint that, if successful, could have led to the reopening of the criminal proceedings and the redress of the violation of Article 7 (no punishment without law) alleged by them. The Court consequently rejected their complaint for non-exhaustion of domestic remedies."

Nikolajs Larionovs

Nikolajs Larionovs, a Latvian national, was born in 1921 and died in 2005. His son continued his application before the court on his behalf.

Following the occupation of Latvia by the USSR in the summer of 1940, Larionovs joined the Academy of the Infantry of the Soviet Army in Riga and then served in the Red Army.

When the Red Army re-entered Latvia on 8 May 1945, Larionovs was demobilised, assigned to the State security services and then sent to serve in the local branch of the NKVD, forerunner of the KGB, from which he retired in 1976 with the rank of lieutenant-colonel.

In 1998 a preliminary investigation was opened against Larionovs, who was suspected of having participated in the mass deportation of 40,000 Latvian inhabitants from 25 to 30 March 1949 to remote corners of the USSR. 

On 8 October 1999 Larionovs was charged and his trial took place from September 2002 to September 2003 during which the criminal case file (including documents concerning the deportation of 150 families) was examined and 132 victims gave evidence.

In a judgment of 25 September 2003, the trial court found Mr Larionovs guilty of crimes against humanity and genocide.


Nikolay Tess

The second applicant, Nikolay Tess, was a Russian national. He was born in 1921 and died in 2006. His wife, and subsequently his brother, continued his application before the Court.

In 1939 Tess was enlisted into the Soviet army. In May 1945 he joined the NKVD. In February 1949 he was asked to assist other divisions on a mass deportation operation (Operation Priboi) from Latvia.

Until he retired in 1955 at the rank of major, Tess worked for the KGB. 

On 19 March 1998 the prosecution opened a file into Tess’ activities in February/March 1949. He was suspected of having played an active role in Operation Priboi. In a decision of 21 March 2001 he was charged with drawing up and signing orders to arrest and deport 42 families.

His trial started in February 2002 and on 16 December 2003 Tess was found guilty of a crime contrary to Article 681 of the 1961 Criminal Code.

A series of appeals were unsuccessful with the acts he had committed deemed to be criminal offences in accordance with the general principles of law recognised by civilised countries.

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