UNITED NATIONS, N. Y. (Apr. 15)
Declaring that the Soviet Union has put to death at least 141 persons accused of economic crimes in the last two years, and that 60 percent of the victims were Jews, the Coordinating Board of Jewish Organizations appealed to the Economic and Social Council here today to pay particular attention “to these tragic abuses” of human rights by Soviet authorities.
The issue was raised in a letter to Ambassador Alfonso Patino, of Colombia, president of the Council, from Label A. Katz, international president of B’nai B’rith and co-chairman of the CBJO. The latter body, which has consultative status before the Council, giving it the right to non-voting intervention in ECOSOC debates, is composed of B’nai B’rith, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the South African Jewish Board of Deputies.
The Economic and Social Council, a major UN organ ranking equally with the Security Council and the General Assembly, is holding a series of important sessions here now. Last week, American and Soviet delegates to the Council clashed on the issue of capital punishment, a subject concerning the Council because of its effect on human rights.
In today’s communication, the CBJO informed the Council that the USSR has “reinstituted the death sentence for such offenses as embezzlement of state funds, pilfering of state property and currency speculation. ” Pointing out that, in most lands, capital punishment is meted out only for crimes involving loss of human life or other major offenses like rape, the CBJO declared that the USSR’s policy places “property rights above human rights. “
(The New York Herald Tribune reported from Moscow today that at least eight persons with Jewish names were executed, while seven others whose names seemed Jewish were given long prison sentences, in another mass trial of Soviet citizens charged with “economic crimes. ” The trial was reportedly held in Lvov, in the Ukraine, two months ago. The men believed Jews given the death sentence were identified as A. S. Aberbukh, Y.M. Fuks, F. D. Meskhov, E.I. Akselrud, M.I. Rubashny, S. P. Elgurt, D.S. Rozenblat and D. I. Zkharinsky.)
“The Jewish community, ” the CBJO letter stated, “has been profoundly disturbed by the fact that 83 of those who suffered the death penalty were Jews, Since Soviet Jewry represents about one percent of the USSR population, the gross disproportion of finding it responsible for 60 percent of the economic crimes warranting the death penalty corresponds neither to reason nor to fact. ” The letter charged the Soviet Union with “acting out of a desire to offer up a scapegoat for the social and economic ills” of its own society.
Since ECOSOC is now planning worldwide celebrations, next December, of the 15th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the CBJC suggested to the Council that “this is the appropriate time for the Council to study the tragic abuse to which capital punishment can be put, particularly when these laws are administered with prejudice. “