HL Deb 17 July 1984 vol 454 cc1471-3WA
Lord Bethell

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What progress has been made in the implementation by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Eastern European countries of the provisions of the Helsinki Final Act during the last 6 months.

Lord Trefgarne

During the six-month period to 30th June 1984 implementation by the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries of their commitments under the Helsinki Final Act continued on existing lines and was generally unsatisfactory. The degree of implementation varied from country to country. In some instances there were minor but noteworthy improvements; in the Soviet Union, however, there was a further hardening of attitudes especially over well-publicised individual cases.


Soviet compliance with Principle VII, which is concerned with "respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms including the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief" remains unsatisfactory. The trend in Soviet law was further to restrict individual rights with a strong emphasis on discouraging contacts with foreigners. Within days of the conclusion of the Madrid Conference, the Russian Soviet Republic added a new article to its criminal code making offences against labour camp regulations a criminal offence, thus providing the authorities with a legal block to the release of prisoners who had completed their sentence. During the period under review the further sentences under the new article were reported. Another new article in the criminal code provided for imprisonment for the avoidance of surveillance following prison confinement.

The vigorous campaign to repress human rights, religious and minority activists in the Soviet Union, has been maintained. The situation generally has become more precarious for all detainees and their families. The much-used charge of "anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda" was among existing laws to be tightened up: stiffer sentences may now be imposed if those convicted received money or goods from abroad.

Academician Andrei Sakharov and his wife, Mrs. Elena Bonner Sakharov, in particular, were subjected to increased pressure by the authorities. Mrs. Bonner was reportedly charged with slander against the State and threatened with the much graver charge of treason. Dr. Sakharov went on hunger strike in May as part of his efforts to secure medical treatment in the West for Mrs. Bonner, who is also believed to have gone on hunger strike. Soviet media and spokesmen went to some lengths to demonstrate that they were in good health. Yuri Orlov was transferred into internal exile on completion of his prison sentence.

Other less well-known activists and would-be emigrants continued to receive harsh treatment by the Soviet authorities, with incarceration in psychiatric hospitals remaining a frequent alternative to formal prosecution.

Policy in Bulgaria, Romania and Czechoslovakia remained very oppressive.

In Bulgaria dissidents, religious and ethnic minorities remained under close surveillance; the freedom to establish trade unions was not acknowledged and contacts with Westerners were actively discouraged.

In Romania, harsh treatment continued to be inflicted on individuals and religious and ethnic communities. The works of journalists, writers and academics were subject to harsher state control and opposition in any form was not tolerated.

Czechoslovakia remained one of the most repressive of the Eastern countries.

In Poland intellectuals and opposition activists both inside and outside the Solidarity movement have been subjected to steady and in some cases increasing pressure. The officially admitted number of political detainees rose from 217 in December 1983 to 576 on 15th May 1984. In practice the figure may be higher. Nevertheless, in many respects Poland remains a liberal country when judged by the standards of other Eastern European States.

Hungary, too, maintained relatively tolerant policies on human rights, although there has been selective action against dissidents and state control of the media was reinforced.

The performance of the GDR on implementation remained generally mixed. Some progress was noted in the field of emigration in the first four months of 1984; but figures for emigration in May and June revealed that the flow had once more been reduced to the low levels of previous years.

New restrictions were introduced on contacts with Westerners and on access to certain Western Embassies. Existing restrictions were maintained on fundamental rights and freedoms.