Menu JTA Search

D’amato Opposes Expansion of Pacts with Soviets Until Kremlin Abides with Helsinki Agreement

Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R. NY), chairman of the Helsinki Congressional Commission on Human Rights, called upon the United States government and its allies to freeze any expansion of trade and cultural agreements with the Soviet Union “unless the Kremlin abides to the spirit and letter of the human rights agreement it signed ten years ago, the Helsinki accords.”

In honor of the tenth anniversary of the Helsinki Human Rights Accord, D’Amato expressed his conviction of the “arrogance by Soviets for basic fundamental human rights” at a news conference Tuesday at Federal Plaza, as Dr. Seymour Lachman, immediate past chairman of the Coalition to Free Soviet Jews, presented the Senator with a report “Decade of Promise and Despair.” This document, prepared by the Coalition, “demonstrates clearly that the Soviet Union, in its treatment of Jews and in its policies with regard to emigration”, according to Lachman, “has made a mockery of these provisions.”

While the Soviet Constitution, blown-up and displayed as a backdrop for the new conference, claims that “the USSR’s relations with other states are based on … respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms; the equal rights of peoples and their right to decide their own destiny” and that “the citizens of the USSR are guaranteed freedom of conscience, that is, the right to profess or not to profess any religion and to conduct religious worship or aesthetic propaganda,” D’Amato pointed to severe violations of their own laws.

INCREASE IN IMPRISONMENTS OF ACTIVISTS

D’Amato charged that the Soviets have “sowed the seeds of despair” as Jewish emigration, after its 1979 peak of 51,320, has taken a nosedive to 896 in 1984. The National Conference on Soviet Jewry reported Tuesday only 36 Jews trickled through in June. Out of the approximate 400,000 Soviet Jews to apply for emigration, 20,000 have met with a brick wall of continued refusal.

There has also been a sharp increase in the number of imprisonments of Jewish activists. “Within the last 30 days,” D’Amato observed, “we have witnessed at least eight arrests of people who are leaders in monitoring human rights compliance in the Soviet Union.” The Senator stressed that Georgian Catholics, Ukrainians, and Jews are all victims of Soviet persecution as he revealed that the four long standing Helsinki monitors that have recently been arrested include Jewish refusenik brothers Isai and Grigory Goldstein as well as Georgian Catholics Tengis and Edward Gudava.

In addition, over the past decade, the Soviet media has, according to Lachman, served as “the center of a worldwide network on publications espousing anti-Semitism” and has linked Zionism with Nazism. “The hopes and aspirations that were ascribed to ten years ago, ” that began to see some deliverance with the reunification of families, “have been smashed,” D’Amato stated.

The Senator, in his quest for freer emigration and respect for human rights by the USSR, began his plan of action by being the first to sign a replica of a petition directed to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, calling for Soviet adherence to the Helsinki Final Act. Lachman noted that the Act, signed by 35 nations, including the USSR, in 1975, provides that “the participating states will respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief.”

Later this month, the petition, which the Coalition hopes will carry tens of thousands of signatures, will be submitted to the State Department requesting they be presented at a tenth anniversary of the Accords meeting in Helsinki.

“The petition in and of itself has no effect,” declared D’Amato, who will be chairman of the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe at the Helsinki conference. But the “moral force” backed by commitment will have an effect.

D’AMATO: SOVIET RECORD IS ‘DISMAL’

D’Amato will stress at the Helsinki meeting that the Soviet record on human rights “has been dismal” and will propose that the U.S. and nations of the free world oppose any expansion of trade with the Soviets, although he clearly stated that it should not necessarily effect any current trade agreements.

“I believe this Administration has before it a unique opportunity to create a new exodus for the tens of thousands of Soviet Jews who wish to taste freedom, ” D’Amato said. “We need to tell those who are systematically violating the Helsinki agreement on basic human rights, that unless they begin to adhere to the principles they agreed to, then we aren’t going to bargain on other issues of importance to them.”

“What was a promise has turned out to be despair, ” D’Amato asserted. “We cannot turn our backs on the tens of millions who suffer and endure … We cannot forget our brethren.”

NEXT STORY