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Russia has been strongly criticised in a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights for failing to take action to prevent the 2004 Beslan school siege in which 330 people lost their lives when Russian state forces moved against Chechen rebels.

In a case brought by 409 Russian nationals either taken hostage or injured in the incident, the ECHR unanimously concluded Russia had failed to take preventive measures to disrupt the terrorists, or increase security at the school or provide sufficient warnings.

The ruling said the authorities had been in possession of sufficiently specific information of a planned terrorist attack in the area, linked to an educational institution. Nevertheless, not enough had been done to disrupt the terrorists meeting and preparing; insufficient steps had been taken to prevent them travelling on the day of the attack; security at the school had not been increased.

A total of 330 people lost their lives, including 180 children, and over 750 people were injured, when Chechen rebels attacked a school in Beslan in north Ossetia and held captive over 1,000 people, most children, for over 50 hours.

Thursday’s ruling found by five judges to two that the use of powerful weapons such as tank cannon, grenade launchers, and flame-throwers had contributed to casualties among the hostages and had not been compatible with the requirement under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights that lethal force be used “no more than [is] absolutely necessary.”

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