The International Criminal Law blog

provided by the Chambers of Nine Bedford Row, London

The International Criminal Law blog

Beslan Case Communicated to Russian Government for Observations

3 May 2012 by Administrator

Steven Kay QC and Eeva Heikkila of 9 Bedford Row International have received notification that the European Court of Human Rights has communicated the case of the siege at the school in Beslan by Chechen terrorists in September 2004 to the Russian Government for observations.


This landmark case has taken its first step in seeking justice for the victims against the Russian Government which now has to explain why it stormed a school full of children and civilians using tanks, flamethrowers and grenades on the third day of the hostage crisis. Many of the children were burned alive in the school gym, as the roof caught fire under the attack by the security forces. The case Steven and Eeva put to the Court is that the deaths of the 334 hostages were as a result of the excessive and indiscriminate use of lethal force by the Russian security forces.


After the storming of the school, the hospitals in the area were sealed-off by the Government and the victims’ families denied access and information. Many parents still don’t know how their children died. Many parents have also not been told where the remains of their children are located.


The complaint to the ECHR also charges the Russian Government with failure to investigate where the responsibility for the deaths lies and for the failure to bring those responsible to justice. The case they will present to the ECHR is not only that the assault upon the school violated the rights of the children and innocent civilians inside the school, but also that the persistent denial of justice and lack of accountability for this crime constitute individual breaches by the Russian Federation of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.


The need to fight for justice in Russia is pressing. As justice cannot be achieved in Russia, it must be pursued abroad. It is therefore imperative for the international community of lawyers, state authorities and other officials to tackle the culture of impunity in Russia together and ensure that justice for serious crimes is at last delivered. The parents of the children who died in the siege have sought justice for many years. Their courage and perseverance in the face of hostility and impunity remains unwavering. Now they have a chance of obtaining recognition of the failure to protect them and the failure to account for the harm they have suffered.


Steven and Eeva have undertaken this work on a pro-bono basis. They have received some 300 powers of attorney from villagers in Beslan who are victims, and have filed these claims at the Court with Russian lawyers. They would be pleased if an organization or wealthy Russian individual, who is prepared to help them in this fight for justice, could help with the funding of translation and investigation projects.

For video news coverage of the hostage crisis please see here.

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