American Bar Association Continues 1985 Accord with Soviet Lawyers

Bay Area Soviet Jewry activists are disturbed but not surprised that two efforts to end a formal agreement between American and Soviet lawyers failed this week.

And although the American Bar Association (ABA) overwhelmingly refused to abrogate its 1985 “Declaration of Cooperation” with the Association of Soviet Lawyers (ASL), a local Jewish lawyer is hopeful for a turnaround next year.

Attorney Ephraim Margolin, one of the strongest opponents of the ABA-ASL agreement to speak at the ABA convention here this week, contended that “we won the debate but lost the vote.”

He and other activists pushed abrogation on the grounds that the ASL is an arm of the KGB and not an equivalent of the ABA. The activists said they were sure many ABA leaders were educated on the plight of Soviet Jews during the week.

On Monday, the ABA assembly voted 156-32 to reject a resolution to abrogate the ABA’s agreement with the ASL, a group charged directly with Soviet rights violations and anti-Semitic policies.

Denunciations reached a fever pitch at that session, when a representative from the American Foundation for Resistance International called for an “economic boycott” of lawyers who supported the ABA’s cooperative agreement with the Soviets. AFRI members include former UN Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, conservative columnist William Buckley and Republican presidential hopeful Rep. Jack Kemp human (NY).

On Tuesday, the ABA’s House of Delegates killed by voice vote a resolution by the Arizona Bar Association that sought to delete what its supporters saw as anti-human-rights portions of the pact between the two legal associations. David Waksberg, director of the Bay Area Council for Soviet Jews (BACSJ) and vice president of the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews, which Sunday staged a protest calling for cancellation of the ABA-ASL agreement, said the abrogation defeat was “a tragic mistake, and my feeling is that innocent victims are going to pay for the arrogance and ignorance of the ABA leadership.”

Appearing at the BACSJ protest outside the Fairmont Hotel here, where the ABA convention was held, former Prisoner of Conscience Zachar Zunshain told approximately 60 supporters that the American-Soviet agreement would be used as a pretext to prosecute more Soviet Jews.

The next day, at the assembly, he repeated that notion to a hushed crowd of lawyers.

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