Karinna Moskalenko: 15 years after "Nord-Ost," what happens next?

posted 31 Oct 2017, 09:25 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 31 Oct 2017, 09:44 ]
5 -25 October 2017

By Karinna Moskalenko, lawyer, member of the Moscow Helsinki Group, founder of the International Protection Centre and representative of the relatives of the victims of the Dubrovka terrorist attack
Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: My zdes!]


“What’s going on?”
“The Nord-Ost case.”
“Nord-Ost? But that was 100 years ago!”
“Not 100, but almost 15…”
(From a conversation overheard in the corridor of the Moscow Garrison Military court)

In 2017, the Moscow Garrison Military Court examined the case of a certain Khasan Zakayev accused of involvement in the Nord-Ost case, or in other words the hostage crisis which took place in the Dubrovka Theatre on 23-26 October 2002 and which ended tragically.

What kind of a trial is this? Why is it happening in 2017? Who is Khasan Zakayev? Below we provide some brief answers to all of these questions. The International Protection Centre has been working on this case for exactly 15 years, and has helped applicants to win a related case before the European Court of Human Rights.

The case Finogenov and others v. Russia (“Nord-Ost”) has been pending before the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe for all of the past year; it was even placed on the agenda for specific hearings several times, but in December 2017 it will again be postponed to the following session. The authorities of the Russian Federation report that general measures have been taken in relation to the case, the special services are being provided with training and the fight against terrorism is being stepped up.

The measures taken bear no relation to the decision of the European Court of Human Rights of 20 December 2011 on the case Finogenov and others v. Russia, application No. 18299/03, however.

The Court found that Russia had violated its positive obligations concerning the hostages’ right to life as a result of the inappropriate organisation of the hostage rescue operation, poor coordination of the various services participating in the operation, failure to provide first aid to victims and other organisational aspects linked to the storming of the Dubrovka Theatre. The Court also found that the hostages’ right to life had been violated in connection with the failure to carry out a proper investigation, or in other words a timely, objective and independent investigation. Had the investigation been carried out properly, it may well have revealed other unlawful and unconscionable actions by representatives of the authorities. For whatever reason, the authorities failed to submit to the Court any materials relating to the “Hostage Rescue Headquarters,” claiming that all of these documents had been destroyed.

There is little need to point out that this is a strange explanation, and indeed there is a lot about this case which is strange; for some reason everyone who took part in the hostage taking was killed, even those who were unconscious and thereby rendered "harmless," and could subsequently stand up in front of a court and give evidence about the circumstances of the case. They could have answered questions such as the following: how did they find themselves in the Dubrovka Theatre? What kind of demands did they make? Why did they not use explosives when the theatre was stormed, even though they put up active resistance and fired shots? 

All of these questions have remained unanswered for 15 years. And now, in 2017, a public trial is unexpectedly being held in connection with the Nord-Ost case. Khasan Zakayev, whose role in this case remains as mysterious as before, was seized and transported to a pre-trial detention centre in Moscow. Before this case against Zakayev, no fewer than 12 people had been convicted or found guilty of being accessories to the crime but granted amnesties, without the participation of the victims. The only positive outcome of the measures taken as a result of the ECtHR’s judgment is that the victims have at last been allowed to appear in the courtroom, to take the witness stand, to speak and to present their evidence in the case. 

Nevertheless, the court proceedings presided over by Judge Mikhail Kudashkin resulted in all the victims’ requests being refused and all their arguments being ignored by the court; what is more, the judgment itself makes it impossible to understand the role played by Khasan Zakayev in relation to the unfolding tragedy. […]

The ECtHR previously found that there was a violation of the applicants’ right to life. The violation of positive obligations to protect the applicants’ right to life resulted firstly from the inappropriate planning and implementation of the hostage rescue operation, and secondly from the failure to carry out an appropriate investigation into the real facts behind the taking of hostages during a performance of the musical “Nord-Ost” and the organisation of the rescue operation.

As if it were not enough that the victims’ rights have not been restored, the authorities have made it very clear that they do not wish to establish the real circumstances of the tragedy and attribute any liability to officials.

What happens next?

We will fight for the restoration of justice.

Translated by Joanne Reynolds