Strasbourg’s Decision in the “Nord-Ost” Case has Entered into Force
The “Nor’easters” – more than 60 of them – filed complaints in April and July of 2003. The applicants demanded that the government of the Russian Federation be recognized as having violated Articles 2 and 3 of European Convention (the right to life and prohibition of torture). They also wanted Russia to prosecute the organizers of the (hostage rescue) operation.
Eight years later, in December of 2011, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled: Russia had violated the right to life, and each of the applicants was awarded compensation of from 8 to 60 thousand euros. As for the other points, the court found no need to satisfy these. This decision was found unacceptable to both the Russian government and the victims’ lawyers. The former insist that they did not violate any of the hostages’ right to life, and were acting “in a state of urgent necessity”. They stated that “a loss of life was inevitable” and that the authorities’ actions “minimized casualties”. The hostages insist – among other things – that the ECHR determine whether or not the gas was harmless. This June, the ECHR’s decision entered in force.
Tatiana Karpova, mother of deceased musician Alexander Karpov and co-chair of the ‘Nord-Ost’ public organization:
“As a whole, we are happy with the ECHR’s decision. We managed to get what we mainly wanted: the ECHR recognized that there was a violation of the right to life, one of the most important articles, and of our Constitution as well. For all of the last ten years, the Russian government has been resisting this, claiming that they had not violated the right to life. The ECHR, however, found that this point had been violated and this here is our very great victory.
“But there is one peculiar thing: in the ECHR’s decision it states that it is still unproven as to whether or not the gas that was introduced into the (theater) auditorium was harmful. If the gas was harmless, then why are we being compensated? It turns out that the Court is contradicting itself. We insist that the gas could not be harmless: first of all, we have a lot of people – hostages who survived, thank God – but who were later disabled. Some have (diseases of) the kidneys, some the liver; some have cancers or severe nervous system diseases. There are cases of partial memory loss, and we have 12 who are deaf. Secondly, we had a huge number of deaths.
“You know, we never set for ourselves the goal of proving to the ECHR that the conduct of the assault was either right or wrong, that isn’t in our area of expertise. We had but one question: why did the government give the command to use the gas, and, knowing that almost 100% of the hostages would suffer from the gas, that they wouldn’t simply fall asleep but would die from the gas, why did the authorities give the command to use the gas? What gave them the right? Who were they saving, if they themselves were killing the people?
“And our most colossal complaint is that the composition of the gas was not announced, not to us, and not even to the medics who were injecting antidotes into the hostages. And then, as a result, physicians RANDOMLY, at their own risk, searched for an antidote that could return people from their unconscious state. And another terrible thing: the antidote that was injected into the hostages was far from completely safe, while at the same time those medics who were giving the injections (on the scene) did not mark the patients with brilliant green as to who had been given an injection and who hadn’t. And some got overdoses – instead of one shot they got two, while others didn’t get any. It was a complete mess, and that is why we had so many deaths – 130 people, including 10 children.
“Therefore we cannot recognize the gas in any way as being harmless, and we don’t know if the composition of the gas will ever be declassified. As the government told us: ‘this is a state secret’.
“In our statements to the ECHR, we also talked about the lawlessness that took place after the assault. The hostages were stacked on the buses and transported the first hospital that entered into the driver’s head. Not transported to where (emergency personnel) were waiting, but wherever the driver knew the route. From the drivers’ testimonies we know that they were not even told what route to take, and the drivers were asking each other: ‘Where is such-and-such a hospital located, does anyone know?’ And the staff at these hospitals was not prepared for so many victims, and once again, people were stacked in the hospital hallways, just like they were lying on the steps of theatrical center after the assault. The hospitals to where the people were taken often did not even have toxicological departments, and so the needed assistance was not immediately provided. Many victims were taken to the hospital 1,5 to 2 hours later, but the authorities had three days (before the assault) to think of how they would save these people AFTERWARDS.
“And later we learned that some of the victims were not even taken to the hospital. Two were found… in a kindergarten. One young man was found near the entrance of an apartment building… Who drove them there? How did they get there? If the rescue was ‘centrally organized’, as the authorities stated, we find this to be completely incomprehensible.
“The ECHR took all these facts into account and recognized that we were absolutely correct to bang on the Kremlin walls, proving what Russia did with our loved ones and in what sort of hell they spent their final moments. The fact that Strasbourg took this into account is, of course, a victory”.
“Well, the most important thing for us, of course, is what Strasbourg also recognized: that an investigation into the terrorist attack had not been completed by the law enforcement agencies of the Russian Federation. So now we have every right to insist on a complete investigation and for guilty officials to be punished. No one was ever punished after that tragedy – not those in charge of the hostage rescue headquarters, nor those in charge of the medics, nor those who developed the plans for transporting the hostages – none of them was ever punished. Instead we had a huge number who got medals, so much so that the entire Moscow City Council was awarded medals and commemorative decorations for ‘empathy’ during the terrorist attack… Can you just imagine? But had someone been punished after ‘Nord-Ost’, perhaps then Beslan or other acts of terrorism might not have occurred… Therefore we shall fight on and demand a complete investigation, and the punishment of those responsible.”