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Human Rights Watch
Written by Новости России   
Среда, 30 Октябрь 2002
In ‘Newsru’
Правозащитная организация Human Rights Watch создает комиссию по расследованию причин смерти 120 заложников
The American human rights organization Human Rights Watch is urging Russia to establish an independent commission to investigate the failure to provide adequate medical assistance following the hostage rescue operation at theater center, October 23 to 26, 2002. Such a commission should also consider other key issues.

According to Human Rights Watch, the lack of preparedness for the effects of the gas is a violation of the (government’s) duty to protect people’s lives. “The circumstances of the Moscow hostage rescue operation should be subject to investigation by an independent commission,” said a Human Rights Watch representative in Moscow in a statement received today by ‘NEWSru.com’.

Before Saturday’s assault on the theater center located on Dubrovka, according to representatives of the human rights organizations, an unidentified gas was pumped into the auditorium in order to neutralize the terrorists. Losses among the hostages numbered 120, with only one dying of gunshot wounds. “Too many questions remain unanswered,” said Elizabeth Andersen, executive director of Human Rights Watch in Europe and Central Asia. “The authorities are silent precisely when the information is a matter of life and death.”

Also, according to the human rights advocates, there is growing evidence that many of the hostages would have survived had first aid been immediately provided. Footage of the television coverage shows that unconscious people, after being carried out by commandos, simply remained lying on the concrete in front of the building. This suggests that at that moment the doctors were not ready.

“The Russian authorities still refuse to disclose vital information about the gas that was used, despite its importance, both for the doctors who continue to fight for the health — and in some cases the life — of the freed hostages, as well as for those who experienced this tragedy and who may face various complications,” the document states.

According to information Human Rights Watch obtained from reliable sources, physicians from several humanitarian organizations in close proximity attempted to approach to the freed hostages, but were denied by security forces. When they did manage to get to the victims — on the ambulances or in hospitals — it became clear that the health professionals were unable to prescribe adequate treatment because they did not have information on the special substance that was used.

“The Russian authorities were supposed to ensure that at the scene of the operation there were physicians who knew which substances were used and carried sufficient amounts of antidote,” said Andersen. “The raid’s lack of proper planning is an unforgivable violation of the right to life.”

International law does not prohibit the use of potentially lethal means and methods for the release of hostages, but requires, in the interests of minimizing civilian casualties, that their application be “absolutely necessary” and that all possible precautions be followed in planning and conducting operations.

The commission, according to the American human rights advocates, should investigate the circumstances of the death of every person killed in connection with the events, and determine if there were cases of extrajudicial executions. Media reports and footage from television coverage suggest that some of the 50 terrorists killed during the assault were shot dead while they were unconscious. The commission should also work to ensure that timely autopsies are performed in order to avoid the loss of important forensic data, according to Human Rights Watch.


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