Helsinki Commission:

The First 8 Years

NSIAD-85-57: Published: Mar 1, 1985. Publicly Released: Mar 18, 1985.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO evaluated the role of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Commission), which was established in 1976 to monitor and stimulate the processes set up under the Helsinki Accords. The Helsinki Accords established a procedure for review of the human rights records of participating governments, as well as for the expansion of international military, economic, and humanitarian cooperation.

GAO found that the Helsinki Commission, which is comprised of representatives of the legislative and executive branches of participating governments, has sought to carry out its mandate by: (1) conducting research and issuing publications on Soviet bloc violations of the human rights provisions of the Helsinki Accords; (2) compiling case records of Soviet bloc repression against individuals and seeking resolution of those cases; (3) participating in the followup conferences that are the main mechanism by which the Helsinki Accords are perpetuated. GAO also found that the Commission has put less emphasis on developing its function of monitoring international economic and cultural cooperation because the climate of relations with the Soviet bloc has not been propitious since 1979. GAO believes that the Helsinki Commission has: (1) become a principal source of information on Soviet bloc violations of the Helsinki Accords; (2) helped to resolve numerous family reunification cases for victims of Soviet bloc repression; (3) played a major role in diplomacy associated with the Helsinki Accords; (4) effectively promoted a strong American human rights policy; and (5) been an effective mechanism for achieving congressional foreign policy intent.

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