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:
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.
Travel to the West is only for those known to be politically reliable. The police must be immediately notified of all contacts with Westerners, especially those in the privacy of a Romanian home.
Yugoslavia: This nation, which broke with the Soviet Union in 1948 and is not a member of the East bloc, is the sole communist country which squares a single-party system with many of the appurtenances of a free society.
Paradoxically, it has the communist world's most senior dissident, Milovan Djilas, who lives quietly in his Belgrade home.
It also has several hundred prisoners behind bars. Most are Albanian irredentists from the strife-torn region of Kosovo.
But, says a Yugoslav commentator, ``you cannot call them `politicals' in the general sense of the word. Kosovo is our Northern Ireland -- and just as intractable a problem.''
Last year saw an unusual anti-dissident atmosphere, which Yugoslav ``liberals'' say arose largely from the torrent of intellectual argument over the nation's Communist Party platform. That lively debate seemed to jeopardize Yugoslavia's political stability and was, in fact, the most difficult situation the nation's leaders have faced in the 41/2 years since the passing of President Josip Broz Tito.
In the resultant government crackdown, a sociologist at Sarajevo was sentenced to eight years for ``subversion''. Later, six Serbian dissidents faced similar charges.
But in the wake of public uproar at the harsh sentence dealt out in the earlier case, only three of the Serbs were convicted. And their short sentences are being appealed.
With the exception of a handful of dissidents, Yugoslavs may travel at will -- anywhere. And they are not isolated from the flow of world information and ideas. They may read what they will, as a glance at news and magazine stands on the city streets or at the contents of bookstores, shows. If an outside book is proscribed, it has to be done legally, and by the time the court has ordered the ban most people who wish to have already bought or read it.
Above all, no other communist state has allowed -- or would allow -- the fierce public controversy that has raged for several years about what political and economic reforms the country must undertake for the future. Nor would they allow the bold, open calls for the party (from inside it as well as outside) to share some of its authority.
Rudolf Battek of Czechoslovakia: Sociologist. A founder group of committed non-party members which rallied around Alexander Dubcek in 1968 Prague Spring and a first signatory to the human-rights document Charter 77. Sentenced in 1981 to 71/2 years in jail for ``subversion.'' On appeal, sentence was reduced by two years. Faces further three years of ``protective surveillance,'' a Czech variant of internal exile. Government has ignored several international pleas for Mr. Battek's release. Vaclav Havel of Czechoslovakia: Czech playwright in the ``Theater of the Absurd'' tradition. A founder and spokesman of Charter 77. Under police watch ever since. Twice imprisoned, most recently in 1979 for 41/2 years. In prison and since has steadfastly upheld charter's ideals. Wrote this May from his Prague apartment, where a police car is always parked by his door: ``We are threatening [the government] with nothing more than our efforts to speak freely . . . and express [our] views aloud. ''
Zbigniew Bujak of Poland: Factory mechanic, and former Army paratrooper. First chairman of Warsaw Solidarity trade union. In hiding since martial law was decreed in December 1981. Outside Warsaw, not the best known of Solidarity's leading figures, but certainly the Solidarity man most wanted by government. Fellow militants Bogdan Lis and Adam Michnik were sentenced in recent Gdansk trial. But others, including Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, distance themselves from Mr. Bujak's r adicalism.
Jacek Kuron of Poland: Lecturer on education. Has been battling governments in Warsaw since his student revolutionary days. An open letter to the party in 1964 brought him his first jail sentence. In mid-1970s was identified with strikes that preceded founding of now-banned Solidarity. Later belonged to social self-defense group of intellectuals (KOR), formed to help and encourage imprisoned or sacked strike leaders. Still a militant, but knows the workers are ``tired'' of politics.
Father Gheorghe Calciu-Dumitreasa of Romania: French language lecturer in an Orthodox seminary. Church was ordered to remove him from teaching for his outspoken opposition to the regime's doctrine of materialism and the demolition of churches. Released last year after serving five years of a 10-year prison term. First confined to a small border town, later allowed to return to Bucharest. Lived there in total isolation until government decision in July to allow him to emigrate to the United S tates.