Baltic Tribunal Against the Soviet UnionThursday, July 25, 1985
On July 25 and 26, 1985, the Baltic World Conference, representing the three central Baltic organizations in the free world - the Estonian World Council, the World Federation of Free Latvians and the Supreme Committee for Liberation of Lithuania - held a Tribunal against the government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The purpose of the Tribunal was threefold: to bring to the attention of the world the illegal Soviet occupation of the once free and independent Republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania; to document the atrocities and genocide committed against the Baltic people; and to condemn the Soviet Union for these acts against humanity. As evidenced by the materials presented in this publication, the objectives were accomplished beyond any reasonable doubt. A panel of internationally known authorities in the field of human rights served as judges: Per Ahlmark, the Rev. Michael Bourdeaux, Jean-Marie Daillet, Sir James Fawcett and Dr. Theodor Veiter, who as Chairman presided over the proceedings. After listening to the testimony of sixteen witnesses, the jurists assembled and weighed the evidence and at the conclusion of the Baltic Tribunal issued their verdict: The Copenhagen Manifesto. This publication is the result of numerous requests made by public officials, libraries, journalists, private citizens and others, for the information and testimonies given at the Tribunal. We have included in this publication the indictment, background information, the testimonies of the witnesses, and the Copenhagen Manifesto as well as brief biographies of the jurists and witnesses. It is our hope that this publication will serve not only as an historical document, but also as a source of information to all who are interested in the realization of human rights and freedom for all people.
Conference on Security and Cooperation in EuropeTuesday, May 06, 1975
In July 1973 the Foreign Ministers of 33 European countries and the United States opened the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), in Helsinki. Since then the participants have made slow but steady progress on a broad range of security, political, economic and other issues of mutual concern. As the conference reaches what appears to be a conclusive stage interest in its eventual outcome has mounted both in Congress and throughout the Nation: Special concern has been expressed over the implications the Conference may have for such issues as human rights in Eastern Europe, the division of Germany, U.S. force levels in Europe, and the future of the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
Estonia is the northernmost of the three Baltic States and covers 17,462 square miles, making it slightly smaller than West Virginia. Its population of 1.3 million is the smallest among its ‘siblings,’ Latvia and Lithuania. While its location has often made it a prize for more powerful neighbors to capture, today Estonia has found a clear path to freedom and independence and has, since the fall of the Soviet Union, made great progress in rejoining the rest of Europe. Since regaining its independence, Estonia has democratically elected three presidents, and eleven governments with seven prime ministers, all the while developing a high tech economy that many have called Europe’s Silicon Valley. Its privatization program is now complete, leaving only a small number of enterprises wholly state-owned.
Estonia is a member of both NATO and the EU. Its security concerns are in large part defined by its relationship and proximity to Russia, and Russia’s legacy as successor to the Soviet Union. This includes Estonia’s own large ethnic Russian minority (approximately 24 percent of the population), which has complained of marginalization and discrimination by the Estonian-speaking majority. Estonians have voiced concerns that Russia may attempt to manipulate that minority to undermine Estonian sovereignty, or use it as an excuse for a future intervention. In 2007 – the same year that Estonia was the victim of a series of powerful cyber-attacks that were traced to Russia’s doorstep – Russia intervened militarily in Georgia, and in 2014 Russia covertly sent troops into eastern Ukraine while annexing Crimea, both ostensibly to protect Russian minorities living outside of its borders.
In 2014, Russian security services kidnapped Estonian security officer Eston Khover, and smuggled him across the border. Khover, who was investigating Russian organized crime activity, was charged with espionage and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment. He was subsequently released in 2015 as part of a prisoner exchange with Estonia.
During the early years of Estonia’s independence, members of the Helsinki Commission repeatedly traveled to the country to observe elections and encourage their Estonian counterparts to embrace OSCE commitments. The Commission has also held numerous hearings to review Estonia’s progress in the areas of media freedom, human rights, and protection of minorities. In 2015, a Commission hearing on Russian rule of law violation took note of the Eston Khover case, which Chairman Chris Smith termed an attempt by Russia to limit individual freedoms beyond its borders.
Staff Contact: Rachel Bauman, policy advisor