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D’amato, New Chairman of Helsinki Commission, Pledges to Press Soviets on Human Rights Violations

Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R. NY) vowed that he will “place the issue of Soviet human rights violations squarely before the international Experts Meeting on Human Rights when we meet in Ottawa in May,” following his being named chairman of the Helsinki Commission, a Congressional group that monitors Soviet compliance to human rights accords.

Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole (R. Kan.) announced last week that D’Amato was replacing Rep. Dante Fascell (D. Fla.) as chairman of the Commission.

During his meeting with half a dozen representatives of human rights organizations in the United States, D’Amato said, “There are literally millions of people who are being brutalized by a Soviet regime that mocks its own Constitution.”

He told the representatives of the organizations that his agenda as chairman included seeking to increase the problem of the refuseniks is a critical one, since in the past five years the level of Jewish emigration has fallen from 51,000 to 896. In addition, D’Amato noted, the Soviets are engaged in a deliberate revival of anti-Semitism aimed at snuffing out the religious soul of Soviet Jewry.

CITES AN UNPRECEDENTED OPPORTUNITY

D’Amato stated that the upcoming Ottawa meeting offers an unprecedented opportunity to review Soviet actions. “This is the first conference the Soviet Union has ever agreed to where the sole and specific agenda is human rights,” he said. “Morality dictates that we speak out on behalf of the millions who are forbidden to do so or we will make our attendance a mockery.

“And if the Soviets seek to ignore the facts in Ottawa then we will confront them in Helsinki in August. And if they look away again we will raise the issue in October during our meeting in Budapest. We will relentlessly pursue the issue of their gross violation of human rights until they begin to abide by the Helsinki accords they agreed to ten years ago.”

D’Amato met with Habib Mayer, chairman of the Afghan Community of America; Roxalana Potter of the Captive Nations Committee; Zee Sy Schnur and Seymour Katz of the Coalition to Save Soviet Jews; Eric Chenoweth of the Committee in Support of Solidarity; Malcolm Hoenlein of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York; Frank Milewski of the Police American Congress; and Ihor Dlaboha of the National Ukrainian Congress Committee.

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