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Torshin Commission finishes work in a hurry
Written by 191-е заседание Совета Федерации. Итоги Беслана   
Суббота, 23 Декабрь 2006

The written version of the report by the Parliamentary commission investigating the causes and circumstances of the terrorist attack that took place on September 1–3, 2004 in Beslan, North Ossetia-Alania, runs over 240 pages. Its attachments are easily twice that. In order to ensure that every senator receives a copy of the report, they would have to use about 60 cases of Xerox paper, which would hardly be a realistic assignment to complete in a half hour. In this regard, the Federation Council, followed by the Central Election Commission, made a great breakthrough in the world of paperless technology: it was decided that the report it would only be published on the Federation Council’s official website, which took place only a few hours after hearings adjourned.

Their report: http://www.council.gov.ru/lawmaking/dokladparlkom/index.html

The report’s authors suggest ways of improving legal regulation of counter-terrorism by listing 6 main points, the most specific of which are as follows:

 — Provide mitigating measures for repentant former members of terrorist groups who are willing to cooperate with law enforcement.

 — Establish a legal mechanism in federal law that corresponds to the Council of Europe conventions that have been tested in Europe, according to which the burden of proof for legal acquisition of property lays with the owner.

 — Increase the responsibility of officials and citizens for distributing materials with extremist or terrorist orientation via print or electronic media, including the Internet, which cast terrorists as “fighters for freedom, independence, and justice” and provide indirect support for terrorist ideas and lead to sympathy towards them by a portion of the population, including young people.

Committee chairman Alexander Torshin’s forty-minute address has been posted in full on his personal website, which saves us from having to rewrite it. We shall restrict ourselves to paraphrasing some of Torshin’s responses to senators’ questions.

Anatoly Vaskov (Tula Region) asked how the 32 terrorists could all have gotten from Ingushetia in the same vehicle. According to Torshin, there were two vehicles, although the terrorists really came in one the first time. “They were not going to the theater or to a party,” he said. “Some sat each other's laps, but what can one do about it?”

Valentin Mezhevich (Irkutsk) asked about the possibility of school headmistress Tsaliyeva being complicit in the attack. Torshin said: “There is videotape that we received from the Americans, in which she’s talking with the bandits and all but kissing their feet, but how would you act if you had to save children’s lives?”

Vyacheslav Novikov (Krasnoyarsk region) asked how, and by whom, was a group of armed citizens allowed through the police cordon. According to Torshin, “in the Caucasus people have a lot of weapons, but what could they do? Start a mass riot with the residents of Beslan?”

Novikov’s second question sounded something like this: if preventive security measures had been taken, could the hostage taking have been avoided?  “The probability of capture would have been lower,” Torshin said. “They probably might not have captured a thousand, perhaps five hundred. They (the terrorists) learned more lessons at ‘Nord-Ost’ than we did.”

Lyudmila Narusova (Tyva) asked why it was that on the first day they officially reported 300 hostages, when there were three times as many. Torshin explained that the first figure came from door-to-door interviews with parents, a survery that was organized by (North Ossetia President) Dzasokhov. “The error was unintentional — it was due to uncertainty with the numbers.”

Narusova’s second question: is it true that the first 26 hostages released were the children of dignitaries? Torshin answered in the negative: “The principle was simple — children up to two years of age (were released). Ruslan Aushev really did try to negotiate a priority release for Taimuraz Mamsurov’s children (Taimuraz Mamsurov was then Speaker to the Parliament of North Ossetia), but Mamsurov flatly refused such a privilege.”

Issa Kostoyev (Ingushetia) asked why exactly the gunmen demanded Dzasokhov and Zyazikov. Torshin turned to Mironov and asked permission to express his personal point of view, rather than that of the commission. According to the vice-speaker, “the aim of the terrorists was to destroy these two pro-Russian presidents. Then a snap election would have been inevitable, and who would have been elected? Nationalists would have been!”

Valery Shudegov, Nikolai Pozhitkov, Viktor Gluhih, Stanislav Vavilov, Natalia Dementieva, Valery Kadohov, Andrey Shmelev, and Valentina Petrenko also asked questions.

Alexander Dzasokhov and Vasily Likhachev also spoke during the discussions. The latter offered to discuss the question of the Ossetia-Ingushetia conflict in the Federation Council, since President Putin had set a January 1st deadline for its settlement.

Following discussion, a resolution deeming the commission’s work complete was adopted with 146 votes against and no abstentions.


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