Polish civil-rights group takes its case to Madrid conference
Without waiting for the test of strength of the Polish free trade unions to be resolved, the Polish civil-rights group KOR is pressing ahead with new indictments of the present Polish system.
In a signed document prepared for distribution at the Helsinki review conference in Madrid this month, KOR assails the Communist Party and government record, alleging social inequality, lack of legal guarantees of rights, and maltreatment of jail inmates.
KOR, functioning in this case as a committee monitoring observance of the human- rights provisions of the 1975 Helsinki accord, titles the new report "Document No. 1" in what promises to be a series of reports. KOR (the Polish abbreviation for "Social Self-Defense Committee," formerly "Workers' Defense Committee") was founded by intellectuals to support workers' rights in the wake of the 1976 Polish workers' demonstrations. KOR characterizes itself not as "dissident," but as an "unofficial democratic opposition."
KOR has been closely linked with the "flying university" teaching of taboo Polish history and culture and with the unofficial publishing house Nowa, which sprang up a few years ago. With no official approval (or censorship) Nowa has already turned out 22 editions of literary quarterlies, six editions of a political quarterly, and 100 books, including five volumes of 1980 Nobel laureate Czeslaw Milosz's poetry, Gunter Grass's "The Tin Drum," George Orwell's "Animal Farm," and the hitherto classified "Black Book of [Polish] Censorship." The list of books even includes US National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski's 1960s study of Soviet- East European relations, "Unity and Conflict."
The 200-page "Document No. 1" -- a copy of which was confiscated by Polish security police in Poland in an apparent effort to block its transmission to Madrid -- alleges reprehensible social inequality in the 50:1 ratio of mine director's salaries to pit miners' wages -- and in the reservation of many different key posts for Communist Party members (the sacrosanct "nomenclature" system).
It further ignores Soviet sensitivities in objecting to the withholding of prescribed veterands' and concentration camp survivors' benefits from those who fought on the western rather than the Soviet front or were in Soviet rather than Nazi labor camps.
In addition, the 44-page English summary of the document scores the Polish "totalitarian state governed by one party," a system it says "has no roots in Polish history or traditions but was imposed." It condemns "the growing autocracy of the authorities," "growing corruption and nepotism of the authorities," and "consequent demoralization of the nation."
It criticizes the absence of independent courts and the subordination of the judiciary to administrative authority; a censorship that allows sale in Poland of Swahili Bibles but not of the more relevant Russian, German, or Czech Bibles; and the occasional beating up of "flying university" participants by thugs who later get rewarded by the party.
The English document, besides summarizing several case histories to support its accusations, also devotes one-third of its pages to an indictment of the Polish prison system. It finds "inhumane" the "treatment, torture, degradation, and deprivation of all human rights" of prisoners in Poland, whether civil or criminal.
It notes the difficulty of obtaining information when even basic prison regulations are classified and prison administrators have arbitrary powers and are unaccountable because of their anonymity. It estimates, however, a total of 200,000 prisoners in Poland (double the official figure); according to these calculations a phenomenally high figure of "almost every seventh male of 21 years has been sentenced by a court."
The report alleges overcrowding in jails, with prisoners without beds having to sleep on the floor. Cells are often dirty and infested with vermin, KOR finds, with poor air and light; prisoners often get to take hasty showers only once every two or three weeks." "Prisoners are on a starvation diet" and are not allowed to buy or receive adequate supplements.
Yet they are worked in sometimes "dangerous or harmful" conditions for up to 12 hours a day.