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Strasbourg will ask about Beslan
Written by ,   
, 04 2012

  ,          ,     //   European Court will ask Russia questions about the largest terrorist attack in its history

The European Court of Human Rights will examine the actions of Russian security forces during the September 2004Beslan hostage rescue. ‘Moscow News’ found out that the ECHR has agreed to consider a complaint from 447residents of the North Ossetia city people who were hostages, and those who have lost loved ones. These residents accuse the Russian authorities of violating the right to life in that law enforcement knew about the impending terrorist attack and did nothing to prevent it, and that the assault on the school entailed too muchrisk.

The Beslan victims’ case will be no precedent for the ECHR, which examined another terrible terrorist attack: the Chechen seizure of the Dubrovka theatrical center in Moscow. Forfailure to provide proper medical assistance to the victims and an ineffective investigation into the incident, the court resolved that the 64plaintiffs be paid the unprecedented sum of$1.3 million

In its decision to accept the Beslan complaint for consideration, the ECHR noted that in 2004there were several major terrorist attacks in Russia: in the Moscow subway and on passenger aircraft, attacks on police forces, and power lines being blown up. Therefore it should have been obvious to the security services that there was a constant threat of terrorism. Moreover, as is evident from materials at the ECHR, the North Ossetia Interior Ministry knew in mid-August (of 2004) that a group of militants had moved into their republic from Chechnya and Ingushetia. TheNorth Ossetia Interior Ministry notified all units that terrorists were planning to capture a civilian target and take a large number of hostages, and on August 27it issued a public safety order for ‘Day of Knowledge’ (September 1st), calling for increased vigilance.

“Our regional police force receive this order, #500, several days before the tragedy and did nothing!” said Ella Kesayeva in an interview with ‘Moscow News’. Sheis co-chair of ‘Voice of Beslan’, which comprises a majority of the complaints to the ECHR. At9 am on September 1st, 2004, 1,200 children, parents, and teachers gathered in front of the school in Beslan for a ceremony making the start of the school year. Forsecurity, the law enforcement agencies provided only 1unarmed female police officer. According to information from multiple sources, most of the police force was sent to guard North Ossetia President Alexander Dzhasokhov’s motorcade route through the city. TheBeslan residents wrote in their complaints to the ECHR that even officers from their local police precinct, located directly opposite the school, were busy providing security for the head of the republic, leaving the children without protection.

Police officers from this precinct were subsequently charged with criminal negligence, but none of them was punished. “The State Duma declared an amnesty for all participants in counter-terrorism operations, and so the court dismissed the case and released the police officers,” said the ‘Voice of Beslan’ co-chairman in outrage. “The state forgave them for the death of our children? Butwe don’t forgive!”

At 9:05 am (September 1st, 2004), when the school ceremony had just started, armed terrorists rushed on the school grounds. About a hundred people managed to escape, but the rebels drove the rest, including children aged two months to 18years, into the gymnasium, where explosives were set up. Theterrorists executed 16hostages, and another 16were wounded. Therest spent two days without food, water, and sleep. OnSeptember 3rd there was an explosion inside the school, collapsing part of one wall, and the assault began. Mostof the hostages were rescued, but 334, including 186children, were killed.

“In broad daylight, while the building was full of people, and children, they attacked it with flamethrowers and tanks. Wedoubt that the assault was in order to rescue the hostages. Theywere only trying to kill the terrorists,” says Kesayeva. According to her, the government papered over just who killed whom: no ballistics tests were conducted on the dead, and the following day physicians were limited to only external examinations of the bodies.

The Beslan residents tried through the courts to receive damages for the police having allowed such a terrorist to happen. “We filed 132suits against the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Inthe end, all were denied. Theysaid that we should seek redress from the terrorists, not the state,” said Kesayeva. Onlyone terrorist, Nurpasha Kulayev, survived to be brought to court. In2006, he was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Investigation into the seizure of School #1 is still incomplete. According to Karina Moskalenko, one of the lawyers for the Beslan residents, detectives are only looking into the terrorists’ actions, and have no desire to examine the legality of their colleagues’ acts. “As soon as we start talking about guilt of those in positions of responsibility, the investigators go deaf,” confirmed Kesayeva.

In 2006, a parliamentary commission led by Senator Alexander Torshin conducted an independent investigation into the Beslan tragedy, but its results are also unacceptable to the North Ossetia residents. TheMPs sided with the security forces: the attack was not prepared in advance, the goal of the militants was mass murder, federal security services acted “adequately in the developing situation” during the assault, and the investigation into the causes and circumstances of the attack “was carried out in accordance with applicable law.” Some deficiencies in the treatment and evacuation of hostages were noted, but these were due to a series of “organizational and technical difficulties.” The poor quality of the forensic medical examinations was chalked up to “difficulties in organizing proper storage facilities for the dead.” The single dissenting opinion was from MP Yuri Saveliyev, who disagreed with his colleagues.

Now the questions that the Beslan residents have been asking the Russian authorities for nearly eight years are being put to the government by the ECHR, and a reply must come within two to three months. “The state had an obligation to prevent the terrorist attack and minimize losses,” said Karina Moskalenko. “There should be clear data as to why this tragedy occurred.”

In ‘Moscow News’

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