At this very moment it is too early to know the precise number of hostage takers killed or captured.
In any case, it is important to keep some simple liberal rules in mind just in case one or more freedom fighters survived the attacks by the Russian police and were taken into custody:
1. We may not condone their killings - if there were any at all -, but we have to look for the root causes for a better understanding of their behavior. Were they inconvenienced in practicing their religion? Delays during rush hour in Chechnya? Election losses? Only if we know exactly what drove these young men and women to their somewhat regrettable actions can we make a final judgment.
2. Avoid the term "terrorists" for the hostage takers by all means. They have families with mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, and it would be a great disservice for them to have their relatives labeled with derogative terms.
3. The hostage takers have full rights for proper legal procedure. They should be assigned the best lawyers available, preferably from France or Germany. Both countries have a proud tradition of setting proven terrorists free, either as a result of faulty court hearings or by giving in to blackmail.
4. It must be investigated in full detail if Putin is behind the hostage taking. He has every interest in the world to appear as a hardliner, and he desperately needed another victory over Chechnyan freedom fighters. While this is only a non-confirmed hypothesis so far, we have not heard any rejection of it from official Russian government sources - which is quite telling in itself, of course.
5. There can be no - repeat: NO - capital punishment for the hostage takers. Capital punishment is a cruel and inhuman act that violates the human rights of the accused.
6. We request that an internationally reputable organization such as the Red Cross be permitted to monitor conditions and report cases of abuse and torture in the prison where the hostage takers are held.
7. Free flow of information between the imprisoned hostage takers and their peers from Al Qaida must be permitted at all times. Access to telecommunications and the internet must be guaranteed.
8. The search for a political solution of the conflict is imperative. Meetings between representatives of the Russian government and the hostage takers, under the supervision of the United Nations, are the only way out of the crisis. The cycle of violence has got to stop!
We will keep you posted on any human rights violations by the Russian government. The hostage takers deserve a fair and transparent legal procedure.
You may throw up now...
IMPORTANT NOTE: I hate to mention this, but there are occasional visitors to this site - often, but not always, from Russia - who take this posting seriously and start complaining about it. This is sarcasm, folks! So - no, I don't think the terrorists should be treated nicely. And yes, I hope they're all wiped out and killed. Just click on the two "HERE" links above if you doubt this.