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The terrorist attack in Beslan:
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, 27 2012

The terrorist attack in Beslan: Strasbourg considers complaints against Russia from hostages and their families

ImageOn April 10th, 2012, the European Court of Human Rights communicated to the Russian Federation seven complaints of violations by the state of the right to life and the right to effective remedy with respect to acts and omissions by the authorities before, during and after the seizure of hostages in School #1 in Beslan on September 1st, 2004. Thismeans that the complaints have been officially communicated to the respondent state. Strasbourg asked parties to the proceedings a number of questions in order to allow consideration of the admissibility and merits of the complaints. Italso required the government to provide copies of available case materials for its examination.

The entire proceedings were given the tentative title of ‘Tagayeva and Others v. Russia, and Six other Applications, complaints #26562/07, &tc.’ It contains complaints from 447applicants found in the following petitions: ‘Tagayeva and Others v. Russia, complaint #26562/07’, which was submitted, inter alia by Emma Lazarovna Tagayeva, head of the all-Russia public organization ‘Voice of Beslan’, ‘Dudiyeva and Others v. Russia, complaint #14755/08’, filed by Susanna Petrovna Dudiyeva, head of the North Ossetia public organization ‘Beslan Mothers association of victims of terrorist acts’ (commonly referred to as ‘Beslan Mothers Committee’), ‘Albegova and Others v. Russia, complaint #49339/08’, ‘Savkuyev and Others v. Russia, complaint #49380/08’, ‘Aliyeva and Others v. Russia, complaint #51313/08’, ‘Kokova and Others v. Russia, complaint #21294/11’, and ‘Nogayeva and Others v. Russia, complaint #N37096/11’.

The European Court of Human Rights set before the government of the Russian Federation and the applicants the following questions, some of which are asked of only some of the seven complaints:

  • Did the authorities possess operational information prior to the seizure of hostages on September 1st, 2004, considering School #1 to be a possible target of a terrorist attack, and, in particular, the seizure of hostages? Didlocal law enforcement agencies take reasonably adequate precautions to ensure that the hostage taking would not occur, and, in the case of the corresponding alert, did they take immediate steps in response? Werethe proper precautions fully implemented? Which specific agencies and officials were responsible for security at School #1 during the ‘Day of Knowledge’ first school day ceremony?
  • During the course of the investigation, were the circumstances of the hostage taking, as well as the reasons for the victims’ deaths and injuries established with reasonable certainty? Werethe causes and circumstances of the first three explosions in the school gym on August (sic September) 3rd, 2004, quite definitely established? Werethe circumstances of the authorities’ use of weapons (force) with a reasonable degree of certainty established in the course of the investigation? Wasthe ruling that there was no criminal liability in the decisions made by the security services on September 3rd, 2004, made as a result of a thorough, effective, and independent investigation? Werematerials from the investigation, including its conclusions, made sufficiently available to the victims?
  • Were the applicants who were held hostage subject to inhumane and degrading treatment by the Russian authorities? Didthe authorities carry out their obligations to ensure adequate medical care and evacuation, as well as effective suppression of the resultingfire?
  • Did Russia violate the right to life of the applicants who were held hostage, as well as the rights of the relatives of those being held? Wasthe use of weapons (forces) by the Russian authorities on September 3rd, 2004, absolutely necessary in terms of paragraph 2of Article 2of the Convention, which guarantees the right to life? Didthe use of weapons (force) by the authorities cause the hostages’ injuries and deaths?
  • Did the authorities taken adequate measures to the maximum extent possible to protect the hostages’ lives after they were taken hostage? Didthe authorities take steps to resolve the situation through negotiation? Wasthe operational headquarters’ strategy aimed at saving the maximum number of people?
  • Who exactly was in the operational headquarters? Whenand by whom were its members appointed? Wereall members of the operational headquarters promptly informed that they were included in its makeup? Wasthere a clear delineation of responsibility between members of the operational headquarters and other officials who arrived in Beslan? Howwere decisions made by the operational headquarters, in particular regarding the use of firearms and other weapons?
  • Was the assault on the school on September 3, 2004, designed and implemented by the authorities in order to minimize to the maximum extent possible the threats to the lives of civilians, in particular, the applicants and their relatives? Inselecting the means and methods for conducting the hostage rescue operation, were all feasible precautionstaken?
  • Did the operational headquarters and other agencies take sufficient steps in preparing the hostage rescue operation, including providing for the readiness of the medical, rescue, and fire brigades?

Recall that on December 20th, 2011, the European Court of Human Rights announced its decision in a case concerning another well-known terrorist attack: the hostage-taking in the theatrical center on Dubrovka. Todate the decision has not been put into force as there is an appeal to transfer the case to the Grand Chamber, but at the level of the Strasbourg court it was established that the Russian authorities did not violate the right to life of the ‘Nord-Ost’ victims in deciding to use force and gas in the hostage rescue, but recognized that rights were violated by inadequate planning and implementation of the rescue operation, as well as an ineffective investigation into the circumstances.

I should add that almost at the same time as the case concerning the events in Beslan, on April 13th, 2012, another complaint was communicated to the authorities of the Russian Federation. Thiscomplaint was from the ‘Russian-Chechen Friendship Organization’, an inter-regional public organization that was labeled extremist by the Russian courts, and disbanded. Anumber of its members (Stanislav Dmitriyevsky, Oksana Chelysheva, and Tatiana Banina) underwent difficulties beginning with the initiation of criminal proceedings against them in connection with the publication of appeals by Aslan Maskhadov in the newspaper ‘Advocacy’. Dmitriyevsky was the chief editor of this publication, and during the trial of the sole surviving Beslan terrorist Nurpasha Kulayev, Maskhadov was recognized by the North Ossetia Supreme Court as one of the organizers of the Beslan terrorist attack. Maskhadov’s appeal, and that of his right-hand man, Akhmed Zakayev, contained a sharp criticism of the activities of the Russian authorities.

From the website of Oleg Anishchik: Filing of complaints against Russia in the European Court of Human Rights

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