Court: Russian Response to 2004 Beslin School Terrorist Attack Flawed

Errors in emergency response contributed to the casualty figures, according to the court.

The European Court of Human Rights faulted Russian authorities for their response to a hostage situation during a 2004 terrorist attack on a school in the country.

The court ruled that Russia should pay $3.2 million to the victims of the Beslin School No. 1 attack and their families who brought the case to court, reports NPR.

The case stems from an incident that began on Sept. 1, 2004, when terrorists demanding freedom for Chechnya held more than 1,000 people hostage at a school in North Ossetia. In total, more than 330 people were killed in the incident, which ended when Russian soldiers fired explosives and infiltrated the school.

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The court highlighted several errors in Russian emergency preparedness and response that the judges say “contributed, to some extent, to the tragic outcome of the events.” Russia’s Justice Ministry is expected to appeal the ruling.

Russian shortcomings mentioned by the court are listed below.

Before the Beslin School Attack

Not enough was done to stop the terrorists from meeting and preparing for the attack despite the fact that authorities had prior knowledge about a planned terrorist attack on an educational institution in the North Ossetia area. Specifically:

  • The terrorists were able to travel to the school unimpeded
  • Security at the school had not been increased
  • Neither the school nor the public had been warned of the threat

During the Beslin School Attack

There were delays setting up a rescue operation and “inconsistencies in determining its leadership and composition, and the lack of any records highlights the appearance of a void of formal responsibility.”

Following the Beslin School Attack

Full forensic examinations were not conducted on the majority of victims and investigators “failed to properly record the location of the vast majority of the hostages’ bodies. For one third of the victims, the exact cause of death had not been established.”

Other evidence was not gathered before the site was altered and the official inquiry failed to determine what weapons were used in what locations by whom. Russian security forces are believed to have used weapons such as grenade launchers, flame throwers and tank cannons in the rescue operation.

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