Human-rights policies in E. Europe: from Draconian to liberal. Yugoslav `freedom' is not found in Poland, Romania
Since the Helsinki Final Act was signed in 1975, the human-rights record in most of the communist East European countries has shown little improvement. This article is the conclusion of a survey of the situation in those nations: Poland: Throughout the year reports such as the following have been commonplace in Poland's daily press:Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Polish police detain a group distributing ``Solidarnosc Poznan'' magazine. They seize large quantities of anti-state publications and printing materials. A young woman student and a foreign-trade employee are taken into investigative custody.
The Szczecin court sentences the deputy chairman of an illegal committee on charges of being engaged in antistate action to two years in prison.
Security police arrest Tadeusz Jedynak, former member of the Solidarity National Commission. The Silesian representative on the outlawed union's underground coordinating committee, he had been in hiding for 18 months.
Two Roman Catholic priests are sentenced for ``organizing and leading'' a sit-in over the removal of crucifixes in a provincial state school.
An amnesty in 1984 freed almost all the prisoners sentenced during the period of martial law (December 1981 to July 1983). But continued underground activity has brought many rearrests. New offenders were also arrested. By summer the total was almost 200, though only a few had been sentenced. The rest were still ``under investigation,'' awaiting possible trial.
Meantime, some equally prominent activists were able to return, if not to the same jobs, to ones similar to those they had held before martial law.
Historian Bronislaw Geremek, one of Lech Walesa's moderate political advisers, was earlier this year dismissed from a teaching post at the Academy of Sciences. But he remains on full pay until September and told the Monitor he expects to ``get something also to do'' at the academy when the next semester comes around.
After the economy, the legacy of Solidarity is still the regime's worst problem.
Today's press has one freedom. It can be as critical as it likes of the state of the economy, particularly in the consumer sectors. But it may not indulge in even the mildest comment that might seem to question Poland's political status. Relations with the Soviet Union may be discussed only in the straight party program mold.
But, for all the repression, the Polish scene appears vastly freer than the colorless conformity of Czechoslovakia or Romania. Young Poles can travel to the West again, though not as freely as in the early 1970s. And every Roman Catholic church offers a popular challenge to government authority, with a Solidarity corner and now a lavish shrine to Jerzy Popieluszko, the pro-Solidarity priest murdered by Polish security offiers last year.
Romania: In everyday life, restraints are applied more drastically than by any of Romania's hard-line allies. Since Helsinki, Romania's few intellectual dissidents were quickly silenced or forced to leave the country.
In 1975, the United States bestowed on Romania most-favored nation trading status (MFN). But the concession remains subject to annual review of Romania's emigration policy by the US Congress.
After stern warnings last year from Washington and Bonn that both MFN status and West German credits could be cancelled, the government dropped the demand that those who emigrate must pay for their education in hard currency before they leave, a practice begun in November 1982.
No such Western pressures, however, can be used to bring about a change of the police-state mentality which operates in other domestic spheres: minorities, the basic rights of workers, and the Protestant churches (as distinct from the docile Romanian Orthodox Church).
Minorities are not acknowledged as such, and their place in public affairs is reduced accordingly. ``There are only Romanians in Romania,'' says Nicolae Ceausescu, the nation's leader. But there are no fewer than 11/2 million Magyars and 300,000 ethnic Germans in the country. The former, in particular, suffer discrimination in education and jobs.
All religious activity is subject to severe government control. Only 14 of 60 denominations existing before the World War II may function. Others face penalties if they try.
Less regime-accommodating churches, like the Baptist (with 200,000 followers), Pentecostal, and Adventist have consistently been the objects of official pressure, presumably because of their growing appeal among youth. Roman Catholic priests are banished from their parishes for holding ``illegal'' services outside their own churches (for instance, saying a mass in a private home). And importing or smuggling of Bibles -- to augment a severely limited state monopoly -- can bring long prison terms.
A first-ever postwar miners' strike and an incipient bid for a free labor union in the late 1970s were both quickly crushed. More recently, amendments to labor laws have weakened the official unions.