Russia failed Beslan pupils: court
The European Court of Human Rights has condemned Russia’s inability to protect the hundreds of people who died when Chechen insurgents stormed a Beslan school in 2004.
The court ruled that the authorities were guilty of serious failings and ordered the authorities to pay €3 million in reparations and €88,000 in legal fees.
In February 2004, Chechen militants had killed more than 40 people on a crowded metro in Moscow, assassinated Chechnya’s president in May and blew up two civilian planes as they left Moscow in August, killing 90 people.
Thirty militants took more than 1,100 hostages in School Number One in September 2004. Russian special forces stormed the building after 52 hours and 334 people were killed in the crossfire, including more than 180 children.
The militants took about 300 surviving hostages to other parts of the school, while the dead and wounded were left in the sport hall.
Flames spread and the roof collapsed.
Twelve members of the security forces were killed and hundreds of them were wounded. One militant was captured while the rest were killed.
The court ruled unanimously that Russia had failed to prevent the operation, despite having “specific information of a planned terrorist attack in the area, linked to an educational institution”.
The court asked why there was no fire engine at the scene when the raid occurred.
The security services’ use of tanks, grenade launchers and flame-throwers in the assault “contributed to the casualties among the hostages” and was not justified, the judges ruled.
The court found that the operational command “suffered from a lack of formal leadership, resulting in serious flaws in decision making and coordination with other relevant agencies”.
The case was brought by 409 people, including those injured in the attack and bereaved relatives.
Russia said it could not agree with the ruling.
“We cannot agree with such a conclusion in a country that has been a victim of terrorist attacks multiple times,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the media.
“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.”
The authorities charged Beslan police officers with negligence, although they were granted amnesty from prosecution and officers in Ingushetia, the region where the militants crossed into North Ossetia, were acquitted of negligence. A lawyer representing the victims said they had only achieved a partial victory and the focus would now be on the individuals responsible for the operation.
Picture credit: Wikimedia