Summary: Victims and relatives of Beslan seek justice at the European Court of Human Rights

15th October 2014: a group of 447 victims and bereaved relatives have taken the Russian government to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for its conduct during the Beslan siege in 2004. Around 300 of the applicants are being represented by SRT grantee the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC) and the Russian NGO Memorial.

The three-day siege at School No.1 in Beslan, North Ossetia began on 1st September 2004. A group of Chechen and Ingush militants occupied the school and took over 1,100 people hostage, demanding recognition of Chechen independence. Russian forces stormed the school on the third day and 331 people were killed, of whom 179 were children.

On 14th October the ECHR held a Chamber Hearing at which Russia’s obligations under the Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (Right to Life) were publicly scrutinised. The applicants and their representatives argued that Russia failed to take adequate measures to prevent the attack, given the detailed information available to the authorities about the specific threat on that day. They also maintained that the investigation into the loss of life failed to justify the use of indiscriminate weapons (such as grenade launchers, flame throwers and tanks); and that the use of lethal force and the planning of the rescue operation did not minimise risk to the lives of the hostages.

Professor Philip Leach, EHRAC’s director, said, “This case cannot undo the immeasurable suffering which the families endured during the siege, and in the ten subsequent years, but we hope the outcome will provide a measure of justice to them – an acknowledgement that the Russian authorities failed in their obligation to protect life in the prevention of the attack and in the conduct of the rescue operation, that they used disproportionate and indiscriminate force, and that the investigation into the loss of life has been completely inadequate.”

Press release from EHRAC’s website:

Link to video footage of the ECHR hearing:

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