Tagayeva and Others v. Russia (Application no. 26562/07 and 6 other applications)

Key paragraph(s) can be found below the document.


492. The Court reiterates that in the preparation of responses to unlawful and dangerous acts in highly volatile circumstances, competent law-enforcement services such as the police must be afforded a degree of discretion in taking operational decisions. Such decisions are almost always complicated, and the police, who have access to information and intelligence not available to the general public, will usually be in the best position to make them (see P.F. and E.F. v. the United Kingdom (dec.), no. 28326/09, § 41, 23 November 2010). This is especially so in respect of counter-terrorist activity, where the authorities often face organised and highly secretive networks, whose members are prepared to inflict maximum damage to civilians, even at the cost of their own lives. In the face of an urgent need to avert serious adverse consequences, whether the authorities choose to use a passive approach of ensuring security of the potential targets or more active intervention to disrupt the menace, is a question of tactical choice. However, such measures should be able, when judged reasonably, to prevent or minimise the known risk. With regard to the above arguments, the Court finds that in the case at issue the Russian authorities failed to take such measures.
493. In such circumstances, the Court finds that there has been a breach of the positive obligations under Article 2 of the Convention in respect of all applicants in the present case.
570. In a situation which involves a real and immediate risk to life and demands the planning of a police and rescue operation, one of the primary tasks of the competent authorities should be to set up a clear distribution of lines of responsibility and communication within the OH and with the agencies involved, including the military and security, rescue, fire and medical services. This body should be responsible for collecting and distributing information, choosing negotiation strategies and partners and working out the possible outcomes, including the possibility of a storming and its consequences. […]
574. In the light of the above, the Court finds that the Russian authorities failed to take such feasible precautions, in particular because of the inability of the commanding structure of the operation to maintain clear lines of command and accountability, coordinate and communicate the important details relevant to the rescue operation to the key structures involved and plan in advance for the necessary equipment and logistics. This constitutes a breach of Article 2 of the Convention.
611. To recapitulate, the Court has concluded that although the decision to resort to the use of lethal force was justified in the circumstances, Russia breached Article 2 of the Convention on account of the use of lethal force, and, in particular, indiscriminate weapons [such as a tank cannon, grenade launchers and flame-throwers]. The weakness of the legal framework governing the use of force contributed to the above finding. The Court does not find it necessary to examine the applicants’ remaining complaint under this heading, notably about who was responsible for the first explosions in the gymnasium.


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