Karinna Moskalenko: Have the secrets of the Nord-Ost case been uncovered? (Ekho Moskvy)

posted 2 Nov 2015, 09:40 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 2 Nov 2015, 09:43 ]
26 October 2015

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group

Original source: Ekho Moskvy

Photo: Moscow Helsinki Group

Once again the anniversary has come round of yet another tragic date. Yet another day of remembering the people who died – all so very different individuals – who happened, on those days 13 years ago, to have taken seats at the musical the name of which has for years now been associated with human grief of enormous proportions. And all these years the murmurings of discontent have never ceased, and the wounds have not healed. Because to the grief and sufferings of our clients, natural in such a case, have been added perplexity and anger at the hypocrisy and open mendacity that surround this case. So long as those hostages who survived, and the relatives of those who died, live on, so long will they look for answers to the questions that the authorities do not want to answer.

Before bringing an application to the European Court of Human Rights, the applicants passed through all domestic judicial levels, demanding that a criminal case be opened in so far as concerns the negligence, plundering, failure to provide medical assistance and other similar facts experienced by the victims. The investigators have been occupied with the crimes of those who seized the hostages, and ignored the other issues raised by our clients. As a result, the circumstances of the deaths of the victims, most of whom were not given emergency medical aid, have not been established. The nature of the gas that was used in the Dubrovka theatre complex has also not been established. And something that might sound surprising to those who have not been following the case, even the exact number of those who died has not been established (on more than one occasion investigators have not been able to explain variations in numbers, amounting to tens, of those people who died as hostages and whose bodies were removed from the theatre complex). A great many questions remain unanswered…

Meanwhile, a ruling of the European Court of Human Rights has found that the right to life of the hostages was violated. The European Court ruled that violations were committed by the State itself, in other words by the Russian authorities who failed to ensure that the rescue operation was carried out in an appropriate manner. The Court ruled that people died as a result of bad organization and failure to coordinate the work of different agencies engaged in the provision of medical assistance to the hostages affected by a substance that has not been publicly identified to this day, and about which it is only known that it had fatal consequences. Did this happen because all efforts were concentrated on destroying the terrorists, and only as an afterthought on how to organize assistance to those people who were suffering from the effects of serious poisoning?

The violation of the right to life was recognized by the European Court in so far as concerned the failure to conduct an appropriate investigation in the case. There have been no prosecutions of officials who were responsible for the conduct of the rescue operation and the provision of emergency medical assistance, and in this respect the decision of the Court has to this day not been implemented.

I would like to explain the legal position of the European Court in so far as concerns the positive (procedural) obligations with regard to the right to life. The position of the Court (simplifying for non-lawyers) in similar cases is as follows: in so far as the authorities for one reason or another do not open criminal cases and do not conduct appropriate investigations, they themselves are guilty of violating the right to life (procedural obligations of the State on the right to life). Such a decision by the Court means that the case is not yet over. If an appropriate investigation is conducted, then other evidence of the violation of the right to life by the authorities may come to light. The State, on the other hand, is stubbornly refusing to conduct an investigation into the role of the authorities, and there are many contradictions, discrepancies, clear signs of failing to divulge information, and other evidence of a lack of good faith in the actions of the authorities.

This year I succeeded in meeting with the investigator who is continuing the investigation in the NordOst case with regard to a number of other individuals who have been, in one way or another, involved in this case. A nice and conscientious person, he showed me all the new materials. But of course he is not going to conduct an investigation into the actions of the authorities. This is because, as the European Court points out in its ruling, no such criminal case has ever been opened..

I would like to address the relevant representatives of the State to say: As you know, this criminal investigation should have begun. You know this. But you are not doing it. Allow me to express every confidence that this case will sooner or later be investigated. Legal assessments of the actions of those persons involved in this tragedy will be given. And of the actions of those who are stubbornly refusing to implement the decision of the European Court of Human Rights.

For the time being we continue to do all that we can, all that is in our power. The applicants continue to demand that the decision of the European Court of Human Rights be fully implemented. Now these demands have reached the Council of Ministers. Memoranda from the Centre for International Protection have been submitted in the interests of the applicants. They are on the official website of the Council of Ministers and await your review.

Translated by Simon Cosgrove