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28 Jun, 2007 13:39

Terrorists’ bodies to be buried secretly

Russia's Constitutional Court has refused a request for the bodies of two militants convicted on charges of terrorism to be returned to their relatives for burial. It comes after the militant's relatives filed an appeal to have their bodies returned.

They say the ban violates the right to bury their relatives under religious traditions.

However, the court’s ruling is final and cannot be appealed. It also suggests the terrorists' relatives lost the right to know where they were buried. 

The two men were killed in a police raid in Nalchik in 2005. They were among a large group of armed militants who attacked the city, killing 35 policemen, 12 civilians and injuring more than 100 others. Ninety-five people, classified as terrorists, were killed in the assault and later cremated.

Many Muslims believe the law violates their right of freedom of belief and the burial rules of their faith.

“These bodies should be buried, they can’t be burnt. No matter who will bury them – the state or the relatives, the bodies should be returned to the earth,” says Marat Murtazin, deputy head of Mufti Council.

While the court argues it does not rule out burial according to religious traditions. And the authorities and military forces say the ban could prevent terrorists from carrying out attacks. Lawyers add it is aimed at those who treat terrorists as martyrs for their beliefs and worship at their graves.

“The decision that the bodies of terrorists should not be handed over to their relatives implies that the burial place should remain undisclosed as it can easily attract pilgrims and worshippers,” explains lawyer Ruben Kirakosyan. 

After Chechnya’s former head Dzhokhar Dudaev had attempted to declare independence in the republic, and was killed by the army and interior forces, his grave became a place of pilgrimage. Terrorists used it to spread their message and stir up ethnic hatred. 

Lawyers say the law is intended to stop this and the court's decision is well within the framework of the Constitution.

“We only check whether the law is constitutional or not. As for the way it is carried out – this requires an analysis of the actual conditions and we don't assess those. We only consider the constitutional correctness of the law and check it from the point of view of common practice,” says Valery Zorkin, the head of the Constitutional Court.

Russia is not alone in upholding this law. Both the United States, involved in a global campaign against terror, and the liberal Netherlands keep the burial places of terrorists a secret. Spain returns the bodies after two years while Germany postpones the handover for an indefinite amount of time.