Wednesday 22 November 2017

European court rules against Russia over 2004 school siege

A commando takes a position at a seized school in Beslan, Russia. (AP/Sergey Ponomarev)
A commando takes a position at a seized school in Beslan, Russia. (AP/Sergey Ponomarev)

Russia failed to adequately protect victims of a 2004 school siege in the city of Beslan that left more than 300 people dead, the European Court of Human Rights has said.

More than half the hostages killed were children.

In a ruling on Thursday, the France-based court said authorities did not take necessary preventive measures to save lives.

It said the security forces' use of tank cannon, grenade launchers and flame-throwers contributed to casualties among the hostages.

It noted failures to increase security before the attack despite imminent threats against schools in the area.

Armed radical Islamic assailants seized the school on the first day of class, prompting a long stand-off that ended in explosions and gunfire.

The court ordered that Russia pay nearly three million euro (£2.5 million) in total compensation to the 409 Russians who brought the case to the ECHR; they include people who were taken hostage, or injured or are relatives of the hostages or those killed and injured.

The Russian Justice Ministry said it would appeal against the verdict.

It contended that the judges failed to grasp the gravity of the situation during the siege and specifics of efforts taken to free the hostages.

Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for President Vladimir Putin, told reporters shortly after the ruling that "such hypothetical assessment is hardly acceptable".

"All the necessary legal action regarding this ruling will be taken," he added.

The head of the Mothers of Beslan group, Aneta Gadieva, said the payment ordered was "meagre".

"Somebody will get 5,000 euro, somebody will get 20,000 euro. That's a small sum in compensation for moral damages," she was quoted as telling state news agency Tass.

Chechen rebel warlord Shamil Basayev claimed responsibility for organising the school siege.

It came amid a particularly violent period in the Islamist insurgency that was connected with the fight between Russian forces and Chechen separatists.

A week before the seizure, suicide bombers downed two Russian airliners on the same night, killing a total of 90 people and a suicide bomber killed 10 people outside a Moscow subway station.

AP

Press Association

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