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Justice does not triumph
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, 26 2010

ImageInterfax-Russia.ru The head of North Ossetia, Teimuraz Mamsurov said that there is still no law in Russian concerning the status of citizens who are victims of terrorist acts.

The North Ossetian president made this statement, while addressing reporters during a visit to the All-Caucasus youth educational Camp Mashuk-2010 in Pyatigorsk on August 25th.

The parliament of North Ossetia has repeatedly appealed to the deputies of the Russian parliament with an initiative on adopting a law concerning victims of terrorist acts. The drafting of this legislation has been a long process, and it has passed a series of legal reviews. Today it is under consideration in committees of the parliament, said Mamsurov.

He emphasized that the main purpose of the law is to guarantee social support to victims of terrorist acts. Only on occasion do those for whom this issue isn't very important remember it. Weconsidered it from the very first moment the idea came. Itappeared not just after Beslan, but 'Nord-Ost' and other terrorist acts, he added.

Terrible leadership

The direct rebuke to the Ossetian head by those who remember victims of terrorism only in passing is not accidental. There have long been passions raging about this issue in the country. ManyOssetians are revolted by factual omissions by federal lawmakers and, as they see it, indifference of the central government.

Russia is indeed a country that can be described as a world leader in the number of terrorist attacks. Budyonnovsk, Volgodonsk, Moscow, the Caspian, Minvody, Buinaksk, Vladikavkaz, Beslan, Grozny, Stavropol, Pyatigorsk Andthis is by no means a complete list of cities that have undergone terrorist attacks. Withregards to the number of attacks, there have been many times more. Criminals have blown up houses, airplanes, trains and subways, passenger cars, buses, and trucks.

Meanwhile, no official even knows the approximate number of Russian citizens suffering as a result of the actions of terrorists. Thehead of 'Nord-Ost' NGO, Tatyana Karpova, recalls that the city of Moscow refuses to state the number of the slain at the Dubrovka, so members of her organization had to go to cemeteries and make lists of tombstones. According to conservative estimates by analysts, the number of victims of terrorist attacks in Russia ranges from 20to 50thousand. These are nightmarish statistics for a country that is not at war.

But the worst part is that the vast majority of the individuals are in fact deprived of normal social guarantees and aid from the state. Above all, since they do not have the status of victims of terrorist attacks, as confirmed by the law. Since no state responsibilities have been spelled out with respect to these victims, bureaucrats at all levels feel free to rid themselves of the afflicted through a one-time benefit payment.

Released and forgotten?

The situation has gradually changed in recent years, but again, it boils down mainly to one-time payments, and further to minimum benefits that do not begin to cover losses and long-term treatments.

As for the victims of previous terrorist attacks, they have been forgotten. In1999 relatives of those killed in the explosion of an apartment building on Guryanov Street in Moscow received 10,000 rubles (about$400). In2000, the Moscow authorities paid the families of those killed by the explosion on Pushkin Square 20thousand rubles (about$800), the severely wounded 10thousand, while the rest of the victims were to receive 3thousand (about$120). After the terrorist attack on Dubrovka in 2002, the Moscow city government allocated 100thousand rubles (about$4 thousand) to relatives of the hostages at 'Nord-Ost' and 50thousand (about$2 thousand) to those who survived. After the blasts in the subway tunnel between Avtozavodskaya and Paveletskaya stations on February 6th, 2004, the government allocated 100thousand (about$4 thousand) for each victim. Families of those killed in the explosion near the Riga subway station on August 31st, 2004, were also given100 thousand rubles, those injured seriously enough to be hospitalized received 50thousand, while others 3thousand.

Compensation for victims in the explosion on the Nevsky Express in November of last year was an order of magnitude higher, due to the fact that, in addition to an allocation from the federal budget, payments also came from the Russian Railways Corporation. Suffice it to say that the railways paid bereaved families 500thousand rubles (about$20 thousand) and the federal budget paid an additional 700thousand (about$28 thousand). Asum of 500thousand rubles was paid to citizens whose health suffered moderate to serious injury. Those injured in explosions in the Moscow subway on March 29th, 2010, were paid by the state 300thousand rubles (about$12 thousand) and 18thousand rubles (about$720) for the burial expenses.

But victims of terrorist acts believe that even these types of payments are handouts, rather than measures of social protection. Inthe opinion of many, if the state is unable to fulfill its responsibility to safeguard its citizens, it should be bear even more severe liability and compensate them for losses not of their own volition and discretion, based on a special law, and in full.

In the meantime, victims and families of victims rely on allowances paid according to various individual regulations of the Russian government and local authorities. Theyare practically left alone in their grief. Meanwhile, many of them have life-long medical treatments and are constantly in need of the assistance of experienced psychologists. Disability benefits do not cover the fixed costs of medicines, prostheses, and so on.

As a result, most citizens in this category are simply abandoned to their fate. 'Russian Newsweek' printed stories about the family of stewardess Oksana Bobrovskaya. Oksana died in August of 2004on a flight from Moscow to Volgograd in one of two planes that simultaneously exploded in mid-air. Thewoman left behind a husband and a daughter. At first, we were given something: vouchers, tickets to a New Year's party, but now it's all over with, Oksana's mother Natalya told the publication. They say not to come around begging, according to the letter of the law you don't get a thing.

And that is not a single occurrence. Aresident of Volgodonsk, Natalya Mordasova, who lived in the house that the terrorists blew up on September 16th, 1999, lost her husband and an apartment, as well as other property. She moved into a hovel with rotten floors, and for the loss of her breadwinner she receives 1,780 rubles (about$70) a month.

Ten year-old Fatima Dzagoeva received serious shrapnel wounds during the seizure of hostages and their release in Beslan in September of 2004. Shewas in a coma several times, and underwent complex operations in Rostov, Moscow, and Germany. Atitanium plate was inserted into her skull, as well as a special shunt to drain excess fluid from her brain to her stomach. Topay for the operation abroad, Fatima's parents sold their apartment. Itwas not enough, however, so a special marathon to raise funds for the Ossetian girl was held in Germany. Fatima needs special daily massages, expensive medications, and large amounts of money for follow-on rehabilitation in Germany. TheRussian state has no obligation with respect to this little girl, and her mother Lana has almost been forced to beg officials for help on her hands and knees, even though it is clear that the state in such cases is required to take on all expenses.

Endless attempts

It should be recalled that the original version of the law on the status of victims of terrorist attacks, according to several sources, was drafted and passed by Russian jurists back in 2003. Itwas, however, mysteriously lost in the bureaucratic maze.

After the hostage crisis in Beslan and the subsequent release that caused numerous casualties among children and adults, representatives of Ossetian society joined in. In2007, the state Duma received a petition proposing that they draft a federal law on social support to victims of terrorist attacks. Larisa Habitsovaya, chairman of the North Ossetian parliament, signed the document.

In the text of the appeal it was noted that North Ossetian authorities had received numerous appeals from citizens affected by terrorist acts requesting assistance in treatments, the repair of domiciles, as well as the legal definition of their status and social support. Meanwhile, the existing legal framework doe not address these issues.

The law does not even define the status or a concept such as victim of a terrorist act, and there is no clear delineation of federal and local authority to assist victims of terrorism, nor is any compensation defined. Theinitiator of the appeal is Azamat Hadikov, deputy chairman of the North Ossetian parliament, and a native of Beslan. Hadikov said that the laws are flawed, and mainly defend the interests of the government: the military, intelligence and emergency services those who are supposed to prevent attacks. InArticle 21of the law on combating terrorism, it clearly spells out compensation and procedures for payments to persons involved in the fight against terrorism, as well as to their relatives. Withregard to ordinary citizens, however, it is a muddle.

Following this appeal, Ossetian parliamentarians submitted a bill that, unfortunately, has yet to be considered by the Russian parliament.

In September of 2007, a meeting on the status of victims of terror acts was held at the headquarters of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Vienna, and included representatives of 50countries. Onthe first day of the forum, Ella Kesayeva, member of the 'Voice of Beslan' NGO, addressed the assembly, suggesting the need for an international law on victims of terrorist acts.

She stated that for victims of the Beslan tragedy, like all victims of terrorist acts on Russian territory, there is no such status as victim of terrorist attack, there is no right to impartial investigations of the attacks, no access to case materials, and no right to social assistance.

We need a law on the status of victims of terrorist attacks, continued Ella Kesayeva in her speech. The law must be international. TheState must comply and legally, morally and financially, provide for the victims. Thelaw must be drafted and adopted by representatives of different countries with a requirement to comply with it and bear responsibility. Thelaw must act from the moment one becomes a hostage.

The Ossetian spokeswoman read the statistics: The state rid itself of the Beslan victims by providing 100,000 rubles to the families of the slain, 70thousand for those seriously injured, 50thousand for moderately injured, and 25thousand for those who were lightly injured. People provided financial assistance to the Beslan victims, but this did not come from the state. There are 810persons with wounds of varying severity. Seventeen children became orphans. More than 140people, including 73children, became disabled. Behind these figures lies the guilt of the state that fails to provide security and then, after an attack, steadfastly avoids providing social assistance to victims.

In September of 2009, Ossetian parliamentarians, headed by the representative from North Ossetia, Alexander Dzasokhov, appealed once again to the Russian parliament with an initiative to adopt the law on victims.

We believe that protection of victims of terrorist acts must not be a one-time payment, but be long-term in nature and consist of several elements: adequate financial compensation in the form of lump-sum payment, medical, psychological and other rehabilitation, sanatoria treatment, educational benefits, and pensions based on existing programs. Countries that are more experienced and the most affected by the terrorist threat Spain, Italy, and Israel already do this, the appeal reads.

In November of 2009, a new public organization appeared, called For the status of victims of terrorist attacks.

In December of that year, at a reporting and election assembly of human rights activists in Moscow, Ella Kesayeva, head of the 'Voice of Beslan' NGO, proposed that they contact the Russian Federation Council, as well as the Parliament, with an appeal to adopt a law on the status of victims of terrorist attacks. Shesaid that victims should not have to go (to hospitals) cap in hand. Effective and free treatment must be provided by the state. Inaddition to ongoing rehabilitation, monthly benefits are required for the children of former hostages, as well as pensions to parents of victims. Alsoneeded are yearly sanatoria treatments and travel for affected children, as well as preferential admission to universities.

According to Kesaeva, there are such laws are in almost all countries whose citizens have suffered at the hands of terrorists. Onlythe U.S. does not have such a law, but at least there the victims receive huge payouts. Victims of September 11th received up to$17 million. Overthere problems are fixed by a huge disbursal of compensation, and then medical rehabilitation at government expense. Thisis the social policy, said the human rights activist.

The assembly unanimously adopted the Ossetian mother’s proposal.

The highest federal authority heard the voice of the Beslan mothers at last. Inlate 2009, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev instructed the Ministry of Justice to develop a bill on compensation for victims of terrorist attacks.

At the end of May of 2010, at a meeting with regional journalists, Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov said that, following the Beslan tragedy, senators together with North Ossetian legislators initiated the development of a draft law on assistance to victims of terrorist attacks. However, he said, Right now the idea has not found support among several agencies.

Mironov explained that, in this case, they do not reject the idea of creating the law, but simply refer to a variety of legal and ethical points, which complicates the resolution, and that for now, a comprehensive resolution has yet to be made.

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