Lithuanian president sees “problem on both sides” in OMON officers’ trial

Dalia Grybauskaitė
DELFI / Mindaugas Ažušilis

“I still see a problem on both sides: a certain lack of qualifications of prosecutor and – I do not want to pass judgement on the court ruling – unfortunately, I think that the appeal to the higher instance is planned for a reason,” Grybauskaitė told Vilnius journalists on Wednesday.

Last Thursday, Vilnius Regional Court acquitted Two former commanders of the Soviet special militia unit OMON, Boleslov Makutynovich and Vladimir Razvodov, of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The two were charged in connection to their involvement in tragic events in Lithuania in 1991 when Soviet tanks killed 14 and injured thousands of peaceful protesters. Several border guards were shot dead during an attack on Lithuania’s border checkpoint, at the time unrecognized by the Soviet Union.

After studying the verdict, Lithuanian prosecutors have decided to appeal against the court ruling, the Prosecutor General‘s Office said last Friday.

The court ruled that only state leaders can held responsible for crimes against humanity. Moreover, under international law, conviction for such charges is possible only in cases when the crimes were committed during a war or an occupation.

The chairman of the panel of judges, Audrius Cininas, said the former OMON officers had not been linked to the January 13 coup or the Medininkai checkpoint massacre; however, evidence suggests they were involved in the “terrorizing and intimidation of army and customs officers of the country under development”. In his words, the charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes did not conform to international law.

The panel of judges has repeatedly said that prosecutors had disregarded their advice to rewrite the charges against Makutynovich and Razvodov.

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