Victim’s Attorneys Lambaste Government Report on Dubrovka Theater Massacre

The response of the Russian government to questions from the European Court of Human Rights, relating to the seizure of hostages in the Dubrovka Theatee in 2002, is rife with inaccuracies and misleading information. Attorneys for victims of the attack–a terrorist hostage situation turned tragedy, where more than a hundred perished–announced their outrage at an October 22nd press-conference.

According to attorney Igor Trunov, the government’s memorandum contained so many errors, that there was not enough time to point them all out at a single press conference. Instead, he focused on the most visible cases, in order to show that the authors “are manipulating numbers” in an attempt to convince the Court that Russian authorities had done everything they could to save the hostages.

For instance, the report indicates, that out of the 656 hostages, who were hospitalized, only six people died (0.9%). The report’s authors use this to conclude that adequate medical care was offered to the hostages. However, the testimonies of the head doctors from three area clinics state that the number of casualties was much higher – 71 people (10.8 %), and that among children, the mortality rate was even higher, around 25%.

The co-chairman of the “Nord-Ost” group, which represents the families of victims, Tatyana Karpova, added that the government’s memo claims that 100 percent of hostages were given timely medical attention. However, she pointed out, 73 out of the total 130 dead (or 58%), never received medical care. She elaborated that the bus drivers, who transported the wounded, often had no orders of where to drive. Many were turned away from clinics, and told to take their passengers elsewhere once they had arrived.

Organizers of the conference continued to point out problems in the official report. That its authors had exaggerated the amount of explosives rigged around the building. That the use of an unidentified sleeping gas to subdue both terrorists and hostages was not in fact warranted under international law. That negotiators who communicated with the terrorists spoke up that they were ready and willing to negotiate for release of the hostages. Karpova explained her conclusions: That the authorities did not use all the means they had at their disposal, and that “the Government considered using only force from the very start.”

The European Court of Human Rights has promised to look into the claims of the victims, although Russia has tried to block their inquiry.

On October 26th, families of the victims and well-wishers will come together outside of the Dubrovka Theater center for a day of mourning, marking the 5th anniversary of the tragedy.

On October 23, 2002, during a sold-out performance of “Nord-Ost,” a Russian musical, terrorists took control of the theater. They held 923 hostages captive for several days. As a result of the terrorist take-over, and the ensuing Russian special forces efforts, 130 hostages were killed, and more than 700 were injured. All forty hostage-takers were also killed. The official investigation of the take-over, from which the organizers of the press-conference took their data, was concluded on May 19th, 2007.