Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

B’nai B’rith Asks UN to Examine Violation of Soviet Jews’ Rights

March 29, 1984
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

B’nai B’rith International has called on the United Nations to examine “the gross violation” of the right of Soviet Jews to be reunited with their families as prescribed by both the Helsinki accord and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and to urge the USSR to permit those Jews to emigrate.

In a letter yesterday to UN Assistant Secretary General Kurt Herndl at the Center for Human Rights in Geneva, Gerald Kraft, B’nai B’rith president, pointed out that the Soviet Union has signed the Helsinki pact and ratified the covenant.

The letter was in response to a request by Herndl for comments on a resolution by the UN’s Subcommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, adopted last September.

Kraft described the resolution as “a vitally important contribution to both peace and human rights.” He noted that the resolution states that “international peace must be founded upon freedom, equality, justice and respect for fundamental human rights.” and that in today’s world “the relationship between human rights and questions of peace and security is emerging into sharper focus.”


Kraft said that the Helsinki Final Act, adopted in 1975, stresses that respect for human rights is “an essential factor for peace” and a major element in the “mutual relationship between states.” The core of the act’s human rights provisions, said Kraft, mandates that the signatories “deal in a positive and humanitarian spirit with persons who wish to be reunited with members of their family.”

Kraft said that an important UN subcommission’s study observes that the right to leave is “a constituent element of personal liberty” and should be subject to no other limitations other than those provided in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“In the view of the report’s author,” Kraft added, “the right to leave can be considered a pre-requisite for the exercise of human rights and to ignore it frequently gives rise to discrimination in respect to other human rights and fundamental freedoms……”


The B’nai B’rith president said that the Helsinki accords’ principle of family reunion is observed today in the breach by the Soviet Union. “This gross violation of human rights cannot but be considered as subverting” the Helsinki Act, “a basic current document of international peace and security,” Kraft said.

“When a signatory to the act chooses to grossly abridge its provisions on human rights, how sacred can its signature be on any international agreement, including arms control? How can mankind place trust in the signatory? Clearly, gross violations of a crucial human right inevitably impacts upon interstate relations, detente and security considerations.”

While urging all governments to release those persons “who have been incarcerated or deprived of their freedom simply because of their views and who have not used or advocated violence,” Kraft emphasized the need for the Soviet Union to free the Prisoners of Conscience and allow them to rejoin their families. “Such a gesture would improve the international political climate and reduce tension, thus foster detente and peace,” he declared.

Recommended from JTA