Latvian man sues Russia over deportation

The Baltic Times
Talis Saule Archdeacon, RIGA
September 13, 2007.

An elderly resident of Riga has launched procedures to sue Russia in the European Court of Human Rights over the illegal deportation of his family during the early years of the Soviet Union.

Gunars Toms, who was deported from Latvia on June 14, 1941, said he is suing Russia – as the legal heir of the Soviet Union – over the “illegally and violently interrupted life” of his mother and the years he himself spent in exile.

Toms brought the case to the European Court of Human Rights on Sept. 6, according to Latvijas Avize, Latvia”s largest daily paper. He is suing Russia for 1 million euros over the death of his mother and 128,000 euros for his own deportation.

Moreover, Toms is asking for a public apology and permission to visit, at the expense of the Russian state, the places where his parents were deported.

Toms reportedly applied to various Russian institutions numerous times between 2004 and 2006 claiming moral and material damages, but the replies were always negative.

“As part of a project meant to deport people from the Ukraine, Moldavia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to the central regions from the outlying districts, I was forcefully deported along with my mother, brother and two sisters from Latvia in animal train carriages to the village of Bol”shaya Keta in the Pirovsk district of the Krasnoyarsk region of Russia,” Toms wrote in his appeal to the court.

Toms and his family were reportedly deported because his father, Karlis Alberts Toms, was an “ardent nationalist.” His father died of starvation in the Vjatlaga concentration camp in 1943.

The case rests on proving that Toms was illegally deported and that his mother was illegally executed. Toms believes that his deportation was illegal due to the fact that his name is not present on any official documentation surrounding the affair.

“My mother, Alvine Toms, born in 1905, was arrested while at her workplace by the NKVD [the precursor to the KGB] on Aug. 4, 1941 and taken to the Krasnoyarsk region. Then on Oct. 24, 1941… she was tried by the totalitarian communist Stalinist regime and sentenced to death by shooting. Her appeals went unrecognized,” Toms claimed.

Latvijas Avize reported that in 1988 the Supreme Court of Russia exonerated Alvine Toms and admitted that she had been charged without proper grounds, as no illegalities were found in her action.

Toms claims to have requested more information about his family”s deportation from different governmental and legal institutions of the Soviet Union and the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic. He says that the responses to his requests were evasive and lacking in detail.

Toms is now relying on 21 documents from the Russian archives along with eyewitness reports to prove his case. He claims that his rights were violated under articles 4, 5, 6, 7, 10 and 41 of the European Human Rights convention.

Toms has spent the past 60 years trying to prove that he was, in fact, deported. However, it was not until 2005 that, with the help of the Russian embassy and foreign ministry, he was able to receive a reference to his work experience in the Krasnoyarsk region.