The Lithuanian Constitutional Court has made public its findings, dated March 18, 2014, on the constitutionality of revising the meaning of the crime of “genocide” to include Soviet counterinsurgency operations in post-World War II Lithuania aimed at destroying a relatively small group of Lithuanian partisans fighting the Soviet government.
In its March 17, 2014 accompanying press release the court first claimed there is some “discretion” by states in the definition of genocide, and then claimed for Lithuania the right to completely redefine the term to include actions aimed against “social and political groups.” The court said the post-war Lithuanian partisans constituted a sort of political elite and that the targeting of elites in society “influences” the entire nation.
The press release claims that all Communist states “without exception” had engaged in crimes against humanity and were predicated on mass violation of human rights. The court singled out the Soviet Union and claimed it had practiced a form of genocide against Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian nationalists and former members of the state apparatuses in those countries. The court implied the Soviet Union had carried out genocide against a number of groups which the court said the Soviet Union had deemed “unreliable ethnicities,” including ethnic Germans, Ukrainians, Crimean Tartars, Ingushetians and Chechens. The court said it relied upon Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly resolution no. 1481 of January 25, 2006, condemning all totalitarian Communist regimes, and resolution no. 1723 of 2010 to commemorate victims of the Great Famine, or Holodomor, in the USSR.
The Lithuanian Constitutional Court in its press release said it found it was constitutional for Lithuania to apply its own definition of criminal genocide retrospectively, that is, to charge members of Soviet security forces with genocide for actions committed before the crime existed legally and before the criminal code of post-1991 Lithuania had been written.
The court made a point of talking about Communism’s call to eliminate the classes of the aristocracy and bourgeois leaving only the proletarian working-class, apparently as a sort of incitement to genocide within a broader understanding of genocide built upon the idea that states and elites can also be genocide victims.
The determinations of the Constitutional Court will allow state rewriters of history to continue to claim equivalency in law between the Holocaust and Soviet atrocities. The press release did not note any dissenting opinion on the court. The scope of the deliberations was to answer a request by parliamentarians on the constitutionality of two Lithuanian laws and their possible collision in practice. While the four-page press release mentions the Holodomor (capitalized), the occupation of Lithuania by the German Reich, Crimean Tartars and Ingushetians, the text does not contain a single instance of the word “Jew” nor does it contain any reference to the Holocaust (capitalized or not). Most likely the justices did this on purpose to avoid any appearance of comparing the Soviet occupation to the Holocaust, but the political motivation for and effect of allowing this “expanded” notion of genocide legal credence would appear to reside in that very same comparison unstated by the court.