Hostages and Human Rights at the European Court of Human Rights: The Tagayeva and Others v Russia Case

By Dr Sofia Galani, Lecturer in Law (University of Bristol Law School).

On Thursday, 13 April 2017, the European Court of Human Rights released one of the most anticipated decisions in the Court’s history – the Tagayeva and Others v Russia case. The judgment concerned the siege of the Beslan School, North Ossetia by Chechen fighters in September 2004 and the ensuing rescue operation by the Russian forces. During these tragic incidents, 330 people lost their lives, including more than a hundred children. Almost 180 of the victims were burnt to an extent that the identification of the remains and establishment of the cause of death were impossible.

The purpose of this blog is to summarise the key findings of the Court’s 239-page decision and provide a brief overview of the human rights obligations of states in the context of hostage-taking as discussed by the Court. Although this hostage-taking incident was of an unprecedented scale, terrorist groups have never stopped taking hostages within or outside Europe, and as a result European states have been involved in a number of rescue operations. Therefore, this judgment can help clarify the obligations that states have before, during and after a hostage-taking incident occurs. (more…)

The forgotten victims of Somali piracy

By Dr Sofia Galani, Lecturer in Law (University of Bristol Law School).

20110205_irm919In October 2016, Somali piracy made headlines again, and the release of a group of seafarers who had been in captivity for nearly five years, reminded the international community of the adverse impact piracy has had on seafarers.

Piracy had always been a major maritime security threat, but the first two decades of the 21st century were marred by an unprecedented scale of pirate attacks off the coasts of Somalia. Between 2010 and 2014, almost 9,688 seafarers were attacked by Somali pirates and 2,060 seafarers were taken hostage. The estimated cost of ransom payments for the vessels and crews seized during the period 2005-2014 was between US$340 million and US$435 million. Somali pirate attacks have significantly dropped over the last two years, but Somali piracy has not come to end yet. In 2015, five hijackings were reported in the Western Indian Ocean where a number of seafarers remained in captivity. (more…)