Human rights cases often concern politically sensitive matters. An example is the case the European Court of Human Rights decided two weeks ago on the Beslan hostage taking drama. In 2004, about 800 children and 300 of their parents were taken hostage in a school in Beslan, Russia, and were held in the school building under very harsh conditions. Several of the male hostages were executed in full view of the children. After unsuccessful negotiations with the hostage takers, the authorities decided to storm the school and end the siege. Much is unclear about what happened, but some powerful explosions occurred, killing dozens of people, and a fire broke out, which killed even more children and their parents. Over 330 people lost their lives and hundreds more were wounded. Not satisfied with the way in which the authorities responded to the occurrences, some of the victims and their relatives approached the European Court of Human Rights and asked it to examine if the Russian authorities had done enough to protect their lives and safety. Given the context of terrorism and civil strife in the North Caucasus, the case was of tremendous political sensitivity. Moreover, the facts were disputed and it was far from clear who should be considered to bear primary responsibility for the killing of so many children and their parents – the terrorists or the Russian authorities. Clearly, thus, this is an extremely hard case for the European Court of Human Rights to decide, and the question may arise what approach it should choose in dealing with it. Continue reading
About Janneke Gerards
The research conducted by Janneke Gerards focuses on fundamental rights, equal treatment law, judicial review and comparative public law. The interrelation of the European Convention on Human Rights, EU law and national law plays a central role in her research. She also publishes on the future effectiveness of the European Court of Human Rights, the development of fundamental rights by the Court of Justice of the European Union, and general notions and principles of fundamental rights law. Janneke Gerards is also Dean of the Legal Research Master of Utrecht University. Janneke Gerards has worked previously at the universities of Maastricht, Leiden and Nijmegen. Since 2015 she is a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Her activities outside the university include being a deputy Judge in the Appeals Court of The Hague and a membership of the Human Rights Commission of the Dutch Advisory Council on International Affairs. Together with Antoine Buyse and Pauline de Morree, Janneke Gerards has developed a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on human rights in open societies; see www.coursera.org/learn/humanrights or - for the teaser - www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxNpjwEIPXo.