On 20 May 1969 a letter was sent to the UN Commission on Human Rights with a request to look into the violation in the Soviet Union of one of the basic human rights — the right to hold independent convictions and to propagate them by any legal means.
The letter pointed out that people in our country are being prosecuted in political trials for slandering the Soviet State and social system, either with the intent (Article 70 of Russian Criminal Code) or without the intent (Article 190) of undermining the Soviet system. None of the accused, in fact, has attempted to slander, still less to undermine, the Soviet system. People have been convicted on fabricated charges, in effect for their “convictions”. “You are not being tried for your convictions” — the letter exposes the falsehood of this favourite phrase of the judges by referring to a series of trials:
The trials of Sinyavsky and Daniel [January 1966]; Ginzburg and Galanskov [January 1968]; and of Khaustov and Bukovsky . The trials of those who took part in the 25 August 1968 demonstration [October 1968]; of Anatoly Marchenko, Irina Belogorodskaya, Yury Gendler and Lev Kvachevsky. The succession of trials in Ukraine, including that of Vyacheslav Chornovil [November 1967]; the trials of the Crimean Tatars; and trials in the Baltic States, particularly that of Kalnins and others. The trials of Soviet Jews demanding permission to emigrate to Israel (for example the conviction of Kochubievsky (CCE 8.1)), and the trials of religious believers.
The letter mentions the recent arrests of Victor Kuznetsov, Ivan Yakhimovich, P. G. Grigorenko and Ilya Gabai and it refers to “a particularly inhuman form of persecution — the placing of normal people in psychiatric hospitals because of their political convictions.”
This letter was signed by the Action Group for the Defence of Human Rights in the USSR [their surnames are given in their Russian alphabetical order]:
- G. Altunyan (engineer, Kharkov)
- V. Borisov (worker, Leningrad)
- T. Velikanova (mathematician)
- N. Gorbanevskaya (poet)
- M. Dzhemilev (worker, Tashkent)
- S. Kovalyov (biologist)
- V. Krasin (economist)
- A. Lavut (mathematician)
- A. Levitin-Krasnov (church writer)
- Yu. Maltsev (translator)
- L. Plyushch (mathematician, Kiev)
- G. Podyapolsky (scientific research worker)
- T. Khodorovich (linguist)
- P. Yakir (historian) and
- A. Yakobson (translator).
There are a further 38 signatures of support beneath the appeal.
Staff at the UN Office in Moscow refused to accept the letter, declaring that they did not accept anything from private individuals. The letter was sent by post and handed to foreign correspondents.
On 30 June the Action Group sent an additional letter with information on “new, particularly painful facts about the violation of human rights: the new case brought against Anatoly Marchenko; and imminent trials, aimed at shutting dissenters away within the walls of prison psychiatric hospitals.”