Barely a month after attending an international conference in Madrid and joining 34 nations in a commitment to respect human rights, the Soviet Union has gone back on its word, launching a new campaign of repression against human rights activists.
Moscow has just sentenced a well-known Soviet refusenik, Iosif Begun, to 7 years imprisonment and 5 years of internal exile. The punishment of this courageous Jewish believer is the most severe measure specified in article 70 of the Soviet criminal code, dealing with dissemination of so-called anti-Soviet propaganda. Soviet persecution of religious and political dissidents is not new. In the case of Mr. Begun, the Soviet regime has refused for 13 years to honor his request to emigrate to Israel.
But Soviet policy toward Jewish emigration and dissident movements has sunk to a new low of brutality and repression. Antisemitism has escalated dramatically, as has harassment of other human rights defenders. We have received reports that Father Sigitas Tamkevicius, a Lithuanian Catholic priest active on behalf of religious freedom, is facing a similar fate as Iosif Begun.
Finally, we have received reports that Oleg Radzinskiy has also been tried. Mr. Radzinskiy, a member of the unofficial Soviet peace organization Group To Establish Trust Between the U.S. and U.S.S.R., was arrested October 28, 1982, and has been held for almost a year. The inability of Soviet authorities to tolerate any activities by those who are not members of their government-controlled, ``captive'' peace groups illustrates the hypocrisy of their statements. There is a night and day contrast between aggressive Soviet efforts to encourage peace demonstrations in the West and their brutal arrests and exile of peace activists in the East.
We condemn these illegal and inhumane acts. We hold the Soviet Union accountable for its violations of numerous international agreements and accords on human rights to which it is a party. We call upon the Soviets to reverse their inhumane policies and to prove to the world they will back up their words with action and start living up to their agreements.
Sources: Public Papers of the President