Amnesty International accused the Soviet Union Tuesday of a sustained campaign against political dissenters, subjecting them to hunger, forced labor, dangerous drugs, inhumane transportation, and exile.
In a 200-page report entitled "The Prisoner of Conscience in the USSR: Their Treatment and Conditins," the London-based human rights organization said more than 500 people have been imprisoned or similarly restricted for exercising fundamental human rights since 1975.
Amnesty believes there are many more prisoners of conscience. "The real number is veiled by official censorship, secrecy, and the threat of retaliation against those who speak out against political imprisonment," a statement said.
It said punishment may take the form of a sentence to a labor camp or prison: confinement to a psychiatric hospital; exile to a remote part of the Soviet Union; or banishment from the offender's home area. The report documented cases of people punished for criticizing official policies, trying to defend the rights of other, complaining to authorities about individual problems, holding unauthorized religious meetings, trying to leave the country, and trying to return to their homeland within the Soviet Union.
"Convicted prisoners in the USSR are subjected to chronic hunger, inadequate medical care, and hard labor," Amnesty said.
More than 100 people have been forcibly confined to psychiatric hospitals for exercising human rights between June 1975 and May 1979. it said some went to special psychiatric hospitals run by the Internal Affairs Ministry where criminals were employed as orderlies.