LONDON (Nov. 17)
A damning report by Amnesty International on conditions in Soviet prisons and forced labor camps where at least 10,000 political and religious dissenters, including Jewish “prisoners of conscience” are currently incarcerated, confirms charges that “Jewish prisoners are frequently singled out for special abuse” and that prison authorities deliberately provoke anti-Semitic acts against them by non-Jewish inmates.
The 154-page illustrated report titled “Prisoners of Conscience in the USSR,” was released here today and was published simultaneously in Dutch, German, French and Swedish, Amnesty International is a London-based nonsectarian organization that monitors the condition of political prisoners all over the world.
The report said that conditions in Soviet penal institutions “not only violate international standards for the treatment of prisoners, but fail to achieve the standards established in parts of domestic (Soviet) corrective labor legislation and theory.” The report urges the Soviet authorities to undertake a program of penal reform and warns that as long as the day-to-day working of the Soviet penal system is treated as a state secret, it will continue to “generate suspicion and mistrust, certainly abroad and to some extent within the Soviet Union itself.”
The study of Soviet penal conditions by Amnesty International does not single out the plight of Jewish prisoners or that of any other minority group. But the names of many well-known Jewish activists imprisoned because of their persistent quest for exit visas appear throughout the report. These include Eduard Kuznetsov, Alexander Feldman, Alexander Fainberg, Semyon Gluzman, Yona Kolchinsky, Vladimir Bukovsky and Vladimir Gershuni, Feldman is the subject of one of the “profiles” of five typical Soviet political or religious prisoners. He was sentenced to a 3-1/2 year term in a strict regime labor camp after applying for a visa.
ANTI-JEWISH INCIDENTS PROVOKED
The report quotes extensively from a statement by a group of Jewish prisoners in Perm. They charged that “The camp authorities inculcate nationalistic conflicts and agitate other inmates against Jews, KGB (secret police) officers stress in their conversations with non-Jewish inmates that all nationalities of the USSR must take a stand against Jews, particularly in labor camps,” the Amnesty International report said.
It quoted the Jewish prisoners’ charge that The (camp) administration provoked anti-Jewish incidents, utilized informers and spies, used false witnesses in order to be able to impose additional punishment on Jews. Inmates who have had contact with Jews are summoned for discussions during which anti-Semitic sentiments are expressed and they are told that protests against the arbitrariness in camp rules are only profitable to the Zionists…The Jews are forbidden to practice their religious traditions, forbidden to congregate even for a few minutes.
Continuing, the report said: “Hebrew or Yiddish conversation is subject to punishment because these languages are not understood by the guards and therefore their content cannot be checked. The study of Hebrew is prohibited, internal letters in Hebrew or Yiddish are banned and confiscated.”
The report contains chapters on “Articles of Soviet Criminal Law which restrict the exercise of fundamental human rights”; “maintenance of prisoners” which contains details of rationing, hunger regimes and medical care; “relationship between prisoners and administration”; and “compulsory detention in psychiatric hospitals.”