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'Nord-Ost' set the value of a citizenslife
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, 24 2014

'Nord-Ost' set the value of a citizen’s life, but it has yet to be indexed

Even after the decision of the European Court, no one wants to name those really responsible for most of the hostage deaths at Dubrovka

ImageThe twelfth anniversary of ‘Nord-Ost’ is this Sunday. Russia does not like to recall such dates, however. Itseems high time all these Nor’easters to grow out of it. Sowhat? Allthe terrorists involved in the hostage taking were killed, and all lawsuits both in Russia and abroad had their day in court. Somepeople were compensated Butrelatives and former hostages still kick up a fuss, still looking for some kind of truth. Butwhy?

To better to understand why, in a nutshell, let me remind you what ‘Nord-Ost’ means. Letme remind you what happened back then at Dubrovka, and that has been going for the last 12years because ‘Nord-Ost’ did not end with the assault and the death of 130hostages. Ithas been continuing and Iwould even venture to say, still continues. Itleaves open a route for further blood to be spilled in our Russian reality, and to some extent even justifies it by convincingly showing us all that when people die in the name of the abstract interests of the state, no one will, or should, be found responsible.

On October 23rd, 2002, a group of terrorists led by Movsar Barayev captured the Dubrovka theatrical center, which at the time was showing the musical ‘Nord-Ost’. Morethan 900people were taken hostage.

Over the course of two days there were negotiations with the terrorists. At5:10 am on October 26th, gas was released into the auditorium where the hostages were located, and soon afterwards FSB security forces stormed the center. Asa result of this operation, according to official figures, 130civilians died. Ofthese, terrorists killed only 5 the rest just fell asleep and never woke up. Doctors were unable to save some who were still alive when brought to hospitals, since no one had prepared them for this unknown, toxic substance.

All 40of the terrorists were annihilated.

Immediately after the assault a criminal case was opened. Theybegan to search for accomplices of the dead terrorists. During this time, the investigation tried to distance itself from determining the real cause of death of most of the hostages. Whywas it that they fell asleep and did not wake up? Whycould not all of them have been saved? Wasit advisable to use thegas?

As a result, in the conclusions of the forensic experts as well as in the pages of the criminal case there is a certain statement. Tryto get your head around this: “Death was caused by acute respiratory and heart failure caused by a combination of adverse factors dangerous to life and health, which emerged among a number of hostages during the period of October 23to 26, 2002, factors such as severe prolonged emotional stress, reduced oxygen content in the air space, prolonged forced positioning of the body usually accompanied by the development of oxygen starvation of the body, hypovolemia (dehydration) due to the prolonged lack of food and water, prolonged sleep deprivation, debilitating compensatory mechanisms and respiratory disorders caused by exposure to unidentified chemical substance (s) applied by law enforcement agencies during the security operation to free hostages on October 26th, 2002. Themultifactorial causes of death exclude any direct causal relationship between exposure to the applied gaseous chemical substance (s) and death.”

In other words, the hostages were tired, were sitting too long in the same spot, and then there was the gas. Notall of them could handleit.

A second item, to which the investigators adhered, was moving as far away as possible from evaluating the actions of hostage rescue headquarters staff (who later found themselves bearers of medals: FSB generals Pronichev and Tikhonov received Hero of Russia stars, and many of the authorities got other awards in aggregate. Buthere, Imust admit, the investigative work also proved very effective, because from the outset the criminal investigation dealt with the actions of the terrorists, not the actions of the headquarters staff. Westill which members of the operational headquarters planned the operation to storm the theater center, and who exactly it was who gave the order. Wedo not know who was responsible for planning medical support for the assault, which it was clear would not take place without injuries and deaths.

On receiving no answer, the victims of the terrorist attack went to Strasbourg.

Strasbourg ruled in 2011. Since Ido not intent to evaluate it, Iwill only cite a few excerpts (translated by jurists from the International Protection center, whose attorneys Karinna Moskalenko and Olga Mikhailova, together with the law firm of Trunov, Ayvar and Partners, represented the interests of the victims before the European Court):

“It is inconceivable that 125people of all ages and physical conditions died almost simultaneously and in the same place due to a variety of prior health problems Thismeans that the gas was not a ‘harmless’, because ‘harmless’ means the absence of significant side effects.”

“It remains an open question as to whether the investigation was successful in terms of analyzing the actions of the authorities themselves in the hostage situation.”

“Although the formal investigation is not yet complete, the prosecutor’s office has repeatedly reached decisions on the absence of negligence on the part of the authorities in their actions”

“The Court notes that criminal proceedings were instituted under Article 205(The Terrorism Act) and Article 206(Hostage-taking) of the (Russian Federal) Criminal Code. These articles do not cover negligence on the part of the authorities. Therefore, from the very beginning and throughout, the investigation was limited by very narrow bounds. Thisfollows from the action plans submitted by the investigator, which were mainly about the terrorist attack, rather than the actions of the authorities in this hostage situation.”

These unpleasant passages are neither rhetorical sobs, nor the personal points of view of the European Judges. Thisis a recommendation made though very stringent guidelines, and mandatory for the Russian authorities to carryout.

With this decision by the European Court of Human Rights, the victims went to the Russian courts, because, formally, this represented newly discovered facts that made it necessary to reopen and re-investigate this case of a loss of life. Lefortovo District Court in Moscow did not argue with Strasbourg, and a decision was made to resume the investigation. Moscow City Court, however, reversed this decision, citing the fact that a review of materials was not attached to the official translation of the Strasbourg decision. Bythe next hearing by the Lefortovo court the translation had arrived, and the court in its new composition upheld the previous decision by its colleagues: ‘Nord-Ost’ must be investigated again. Andonce again, Moscow City Court overturned the decision.

On the third try, Lefortovo finally realized the best solution, and rejected the applicants’ suit, explaining its position due to the fact that the case, which Strasbourg insisted on being investigated, had already been normally investigated in Russia, and without a sniffle from Strasbourg. Ifthe investigators did not see anything similar to what the applicants were imagining, it meant that there was nothing to see here, move along. Suchthings were easier to see from their point ofview.

Strasbourg also received an appropriate letter that, among other things, emphasized that compensation had already been paid to the majority of applicants. As for the rest no further activity.

All of this enabled the applicants to apply to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, which acts as a kind of an appellate court to the European Court of Human Rights: this committee is assigned the function of monitoring the execution of Strasbourg’s decisions. Itmeets four times a year, and this year it had been expected to consider ‘Nord-Ost’ at one of its sessions, but the European ministers did not have the time: sessions lasts only three days. Itis reported that now the question “will be considered at a future session”, perhaps in the coming months.

P.S.On October 26th, from 10:00 am to noon, a memorial event dedicated to the anniversary of the tragic events will be held in the square at the Dubrovka Theater Center at Melnikov Street #7, near the Dubrovka or Proletarskaya Metro stations.

Come, if you do care.

In ‘Novaya Gazeta’

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Comments (1)
1. Written by C. website, on 19-07-201518:48
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