ECtHR: Russian authorities failed to prevent loss of lives during Beslan School Siege [EHRAC]

posted 14 Apr 2017, 08:57 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 14 Apr 2017, 09:01 ]
13 April 2017

Today, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled that Russia’s handling of the 2004 Beslan School Siege led to mass violations of the right to life of the hostages, victims and their families. On 1 September 2004, School No. 1, the largest school in Beslan, was attacked by Chechen separatists who held 1128 people (886 children) hostage in the school for three days. The siege and ensuing intense assault by the security forces, using tanks and flamethrowers, resulted in 331 deaths, including 186 children, and countless injuries.

The European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC), based at Middlesex University, and Memorial Human Rights Centre (Moscow) represent 346 of the 409 victims or their relatives.

The Court’s strongly-worded judgment found that Russia had violated the right to life of the victims and their family members on several counts:

· the authorities failed to take preventative security measures given that there was prior knowledge that an attack was planned in the area at an educational institution;

· the investigation into the siege failed to establish whether the force used by the State was justified;

· there were serious shortcomings in the planning and control of the security operation; and

· the security forces used disproportionately powerful and indiscriminate weapons (including tank cannon, grenade launchers and flame-throwers), resulting in hundreds of fatalities and injuries.

The applicants in this case were awarded a total of €2,933,000.

Zarina Dzampayeva, who was eight years old at the time of the siege, said after the judgment:

“The Court is quite right about Russia…that it should take measures [to address the situation]. There is no family in Beslan which hasn’t been impacted. We as a community became closer to each other because we had a common problem… I was too young, so maybe I didn’t understand [what was happening]. I remember that there was a total lack of water, and we wanted to drink so much.”[1]

Professor Philip Leach, Director of EHRAC, says:

“This ground-breaking judgment provides a significant measure of justice for the families, after so many years. It establishes the extent of the Russian authorities’ responsibility for severe loss of life during the Beslan School Siege, but also calls for important lessons to be learned, so that the mistakes made at Beslan are not repeated.”

Lord Frank Judd, a former Rapporteur on Chechnya for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, says:

“The extreme nature of the attack on schoolchildren in Beslan is burnt into Russia's national consciousness. This case is just as relevant today given the continuing threat of terror attacks in Russia and across the world. The Russian state has refused to acknowledge its role in this terrible loss of life and today’s judgment is a pivotal moment in holding Russia to account.”

For more details contact: Sabrina Vashisht (PR and Development Officer, EHRAC) by email on or by phone on +44 208 411 4469