The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Thursday that Russian authorities’ handling of the deadly 2004 school siege in Beslan involved “serious failings.”
In its ruling in a case brought by survivors and victims’ relatives, the court found that security forces’ use of weapons such as tank cannon, grenade launchers and flame-throwers was excessive and contributed to casualties among the hostages.
Russian authorities had been aware of plans for a terrorist attack relating to an educational institution in the area, but had not taken sufficient action to stop the terrorists or protect the school, the court ruled.
No fewer than 330 people, including more than 180 children, were killed, and several hundred wounded, in the September 1, 2004, terrorist attack.
Heavily armed Islamists from the North Caucasus region took more than 1,100 hostages at a school in the south-western Russian town.
The situation ended with several explosions and protracted gun fight.
The case brought by survivors and victims’ relatives argues that Russian security forces’ excessive use of force caused many deaths and that the negotiations with the hostage takers were conducted badly.
In its reaction, the Kremlin on Thursday denounced the European court ruling.
Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “it is unacceptable for the European Court of Human Rights to conclude that the Russian authorities did not undertake sufficient measures to prevent a 2004 terrorist attack on a school in the southern Russian town of Beslan.’’
The case was brought by 409 Russian nationals, who either survived the attack or are related to victims.