West scores points against East at Madrid security conference

As the human-rights debates at the Madrid Conference on European Security and Cooperation (CSCE) draw to a close, Max Kampelman, co-chairman of the US delegation is satisfied that many of the Western objectives at this stage of the conference have been achieved.

"There has been a thorough review of the way in which member states have lived up their 1975 Helsinki commitments on human rights and humanitarian issues. The coherence and unity of NATO has been strengthened, Spain has clearly aligned itself with the Western alliance, and the Soviet Union has been isolated," according to Mr. Kampelman.

The West's first achievement was a vital procedural victory before the main conference began that ensured a full four weeks for human-rights discussion. This was considered vital as the CSCE is the only international forum in which the human-rights situation in the Eastern bloc is publicly appraised.

Secondly, Western delegates have gone into great detail in Madrid. At the Belgrade CSCE conference three years ago, the US delegation referred tosix specific cases of human-rights violations in the East. In Madrid, however, the Americans have so far named 55 cases of people punished, principally in the soviet Union, for trying to monitor the Helsinki agreements; for defending the rights of minority groups in Lithuania, Ukraine, and the Crimea; for defending freedom of thought, conscience, and religion (whether they are Pentecostals, Baptists, Catholics, or Jews); for defending scientific and cultural freedoms; or simply because they have requested permission to emigrate or join relatives in the West.

The British delegation said 300 people have been made political prisoners in the USSR in 1979 and 1980, and the American delegation has said that over the last three years there have been 1,000 documents on violations of human rights in Czechoslovakia issued by the Czechoslovak citizen's group, the Committee for the Defense of the Unjustly Persecuted (VONS). The continued restrictions placed on the news media against the free flow of information, symbolized this year by the jamming of the Voice of America, Deutsche Welle, and British Broadcasting Corporation broadcasts to the Soviet Union, have been likened by a Western delegate to someone breaking a mirror because they do not like to see their true image.

This frontal attack on continued human-rights shortcomings in the East has not come just from the 15 NATO countries. The Soviet delegation has been in the extremely uncomfortable (and embarrassing) situation of having to sit and listen to criticism from 30 of the 35 CSCE member states, including oblique criticism on the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan by Romania and Poland, both Warsaw Pact countries, strong criticism from a neutral state like Sweden, and from a tiny state like Liechtenstein.

That said, when Spencer Oliver, staff director and general counselor of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, gave the final speech for the American delegation on human rights last Friday, the Russians broke their previous restraint. Yuri Rybakov, a member of russia's Foreign Ministry, uttered an impassioned 45-minute diatribe. He was quoted as saying that the American and British delegations were using the human-rights debates to launch a generalized campaign against socialism, to stir up a cold war, and to torpedo detente.

Mr. Rybakov claimed that the only violations that should be denounced in Madrid should be gross violations, mentioning the massive unemployment in Western countries, the treatment of minorities and foreign workers, the rise in crime and delinquency, and even the dangers of "walking through New York's Central Park at night." "Keep your problems at home," Rybakov was reported as saying.

Another point mentioned by Mr. Kampelman that has so far been vindicated is the unity of NATO. This was a source of concern earlier this year when it was felt that the United States and Europe were going apart -- especially when the Carter administration undertook the abortive rescue operation in Iran without consulting its European allies.

While there has been a noticeable unity among Western delegates, the same has not been true in the Eastern camp. Poland, which has been walking a tightrope throughout the conference because of its internal crisis, has stayed aloof, and Romania has frequently shown independent muscle.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.