The human rights record of the Soviet Union and its East European allies has been put on trial in Rome.
The human rights record of the Soviet Union and its East European allies has been put on trial in Rome. The second international "Sakharov Hearing" began a four-day session of Friday (25 November) attend by 80 politicians, lawyers, human rights campaigners and exiled dissidents. The first hearing was in Copenhagen in 1975. Both hearings have been named after Soviet dissident and Nobel peace prize winner, Andrei Sakharov who was able to address this latest meeting in a filmed message smuggled from Moscow. He claimed repression in the Soviet and East bloc had altered the psychology of the people. Mr. Sakharov called for an examination of alleged forced labour, torture, arbitrary and cruel punishments and violations of religious freedom.
SYNOPSIS: Held in Rome's Palazzo dei Congressi, the meeting coincided with a review in Belgrade by the European Security Conference of Soviet adherence to Helsinki agreement promises. The chairman of the Sakharov Hearing is Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal who said the meeting was not an 'anti-communist forum', but an opportunity to point out shortcomings in the Soviet government system. He said closing one's eyes to the realities would lead inevitably to the same situation in which Hitler had been able to exterminate six million Jews. Herr Wiesenthal claimed an anti-Jewish campaign was being mounted in the Soviet Union and its ally countries.
Herr Wiensenthal described the hearing as 'a question of morality' and said it aimed at stimulating discussions and public reaction.
Among the dissidents who addressed the opening session was Ludmilla Alexeyeva, a former publishing editor and historian who left Russia two years ago to live in the West.
There was also a message from writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn who said he hoped the hearing's testimonials would shake affluent Westerners out of their complacency.
Mathematician Leonid Plyushch, who also left the Soviet Union for the West two years ago, gave evidence on his experiences of human rights repression. The Soviet Jurists' Association and several East European Communist Parties have not replied to invitations to attend the hearing.