September 20, 2018 / 11:18 AM / a year ago

Poland breached rights with exhumation order of presidential plane crash victims, says European court

WARSAW (Reuters) - A European Court said on Thursday that the exhumation of victims of a Polish Air Force plane crash had breached the rights of two women who complained that the bodies of their husbands were dug up in May without consent on the orders of Polish prosecutors.

Among the 96 people killed in the 2010 crash in Russia was Lech Kaczynski, then president of Poland, whose twin brother Jaroslaw leads Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party.

The European Court of Human Rights decided unanimously that “there had been a violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention of Human Rights,” the court’s statement read.

Under the previous government of the centrist Civic Platform (PO), the Polish authorities concluded that the crash was an accident. A panel led by a prominent PiS politician suggested there might have been an explosion on board.

The issue has deeply divided Polish society.

PiS was accused of exploiting the crash during its 2015 election campaign but has said it just wanted to get to the bottom of the tragedy.

Polish prosecutors ordered the exhumation of the bodies, including Lech Kaczynski’s, to check whether the fatalities had been caused by an explosion or impact with the ground.

The wives of the two victims complained that they were given no opportunity to appeal the decision before the bodies were exhumed without consent.

Polish justice minister and prosecutor general Zbigniew Ziobro defended the prosecutors’ decision, saying that they “were right and necessary”.

Reporting by Marcin Goclowski, editing by Pritha Sarkar

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