Beslan siege: Russia 'will comply' with critical ruling

Two girls hug while they stand at the destroyed school gym in Beslan, North Ossetia, 05 September 2004 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Thirteen years on, relatives of those who died in the bloody siege continue to question the government's response to the siege

Russia says it will comply with a ruling requiring it to pay €2.9m (£2.6m; $3.5m) in damages over the 2004 Beslan school siege.

About 330 people, including 186 children, died after Chechen rebels took more than 1,000 hostages.

In April the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Russia used disproportionate force to end it.

Russia had tried to appeal the finding but on Tuesday the court rejected that, saying its judgment was final.

In a statement, Russia's justice ministry said the ruling was "deemed to have come into force", reported Russian news agency Interfax.

"We can say that a line under the litigation has been drawn," a lawyer for the plaintiffs, Mikhail Trepashkin, told Tass Russian agency.

"But its outcome satisfies neither of the sides - neither the injured party, which thinks the sum of compensation is not enough, nor the Russian Federation as it means that the court has recognised that the hostages' right to life was violated during the operation to free them due to the excessive use of force," he said.

What happened in Beslan?

Masked men and women, wearing bomb belts, burst into Beslan's School Number One, opening fire in the courtyard as a ceremony marking the beginning of the school year was finishing.

The hostages were crammed into their school sports hall beneath explosives strung from the basketball hoops. Their captors were demanding Russian troops pull out of Chechnya.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The hostages were kept in the school's gym

The tense siege ended suddenly on the third day with two deadly explosions and intense gunfire. Witnesses described the operation by Russian security forces as chaotic, saying that the troops used excessive force and heavy weapons.

Only one of the hostage takers was caught alive and put on trial.

What did survivors and relatives say?

For more than a decade, survivors and relatives have been asking whether the siege could have been prevented and whether so many people had to die in the rescue operation.

They say officials, including President Vladimir Putin, mishandled the hostage crisis and ignored intelligence indicating that a hostage-taking scenario was being planned. A Russian investigation into the events stalled several years ago.

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Media captionZhanna Tsirikhova: "For the sake of the children they could have done more"

So 409 survivors and bereaved family members applied to the European Court of Human Rights, a Strasbourg-based court run by the Council of Europe, a pan-European human rights body of which Russia is a member.

The council is a distinct entity and is not a branch of the European Union.

What did the European Court of Human Rights rule?

In its ruling in April, the court said Russia had sufficient specific information that an attack was being planned in that area, but did not act.

It criticised the authorities for being unable to prevent the militants from meeting and travelling on the day of the attack, and failing to increase security at the school or warn the public of the threat.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The court criticised the use of heavy weaponry in the operation to release the hostages

It also said that "powerful weapons such as tank cannon, grenade launchers and flame-throwers" had been used to free the school, contributing to the high number of casualties.

The court was also critical of Russia's inconclusive investigation into the case, saying it was unable to rule whether the force used by the security officers was justified.

How did Russia react?

The Russian government's immediate response was that the ruling was "utterly unacceptable" and it would appeal.

In July, it submitted a formal request to refer the case forward but this has now been turned down.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Some of the victims of the siege

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