10 years on, European court studies bloody Beslan siege

14th October 2014, Comments 0 comments

A decade on, survivors and families of victims of the Beslan school siege on Tuesday asked European justice officials to examine the extent of Moscow's responsibility in the bloody outcome.

The European Court of Human Rights heard accusations from more than 400 Russians seeking clarifications about the drama in which pro-Chechen militants stormed a school in North Ossetia on September 1, 2004.

The ordeal left more than 330 dead, including 186 children, and some 750 injured.

The court is treating all the petitions made between 2007 and 2011 as a single case.

Twenty of the claimants, mainly women, made the journey to Strasbourg to attend the hearing before seven judges.

Aneta Gadiyeva, 51, visibly moved, showed a photo of the daughter she lost in the tragedy.

"She would be almost 20 today," she told AFP during a break in the hearing.

Gadiyeva was among the hostages but was released with her other daughter, who was just one at the time.

"I think the government wanted to kill the terrorists above everything. They didn't think of our children," she said.

She hoped the court "will bring us the truth."

On September 3, 2004, Russian security forces entered the building after several explosions, putting an end to the hostage-taking after three days of fruitless negotiations.

The hostage-takers had demanded a withdrawal of Russian troops from the war-torn North Caucasus republic of Chechnya in order to free more than 1,100 hostages, including around 800 children, from a gymnasium stuffed with explosives.

The authorities said they had been faced with a group of armed mercenaries and that their main concern was to save the lives of the hostages.

But the defendants' lawyers said the authorities were primarily seeking to eliminate the attackers.

"Both tanks and flame-throwers were used while hostages were in the building," said British lawyer Jessica Gavron.

"The government has provided no adequate explanation as to the need of these indiscriminate combat weapons."

Russian authorities have maintained that the first explosions were provoked by the hostage takers.

Their lawyer, Gorgy Matyushkin, also said that the rapid cleansing of the site after the operation "had no consequences" on the investigations.

The claimants' lawyers have particularly criticised the absence of in-depth autopsies on the bodies of 116 victims found burned in the gymnasium.

The court has not given a date for its decision.

© 2014 AFP

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