Strasbourg, France. The European Union court has ruled the Russian Federation is responsible for the deaths in a terrorist incident its special forces responded to in 2004. But not everybody is sure the ruling is exactly “impartial,” given that Russia has no control over who or where their nation is attacked.
Russian authorities breached European human rights laws when they stormed a school seized by Chechen militants in 2004, resulting in the deaths of some 300 hostages, according to the continent’s rights court ruled on Thursday.
The Beslan terorist incident started on 1 September 2004, lasted three days, involved the capture of over 1,100 people as hostages and ended with the death of at least 385 people. The crisis began when a group of armed Islamic Groups, mostly Ingush and Chechen, occupied a school in the town of Beslan, North Ossetia.
The hostage-takers were the Riyadus-Salikhin Battalion, sent by the Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, who demanded recognition of the independence of Chechnya, and Russian withdrawal from Chechnya. On the third day of the standoff, Russian security forces stormed the building with the use of tanks, incendiary rockets and other heavy weapons.
Among the 330 dead were 180 children. A further 750 people were wounded when security forces, which the court said used “tank cannon, grenade launchers and flamethrowers,” moved in to free more than 1,000 hostages at Beslan according to the court.
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg in its judgement found, “Russia contributed to the casualties among the hostages” and broke treaty requirements to respect the “right to life” by failing to restrict lethal force to that which was “absolutely necessary.” The court ordered Russia to pay 2.955 million euros ($4.16 million) in damages and 88,000 euros in legal costs.
Russian condemnation of the ruling was swift.”We cannot agree with such a conclusion in a country that has been a victim of terrorist attacks multiple times,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. Adding,”Unfortunately the list of such countries is growing and is unfortunately growing regularly, so such conclusions for a country that endured an attack are absolutely unacceptable.”
A lawyer who represented victims of the siege and their families said they had only achieved a partial victory, and the focus would now be on trying to hold to account Russian officials over their failings.
“We are not entirely happy with the decision,” said Sergei Knyazkin, a lawyer for campaign group the Beslan Mothers Committee. “Three million euros in compensation is not enough, because you cannot measure the death of children in such figures.”
The court also said Russian authorities had been aware of a possible rebel attack on public places such as schools but had not prepared sufficiently. “While certain security measures had been taken, in general the preventive measures in the present case could be characterised as inadequate.” it said.