HELSINKI ACCORDS, CONFERENCE ON SECURITY AND COOPERATION IN EUROPE (CSCE), HELSINKI FEDERATION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS, HELSINKI MOVEMENT
The threat of a Third World War meaning the annihilation of mankind, forced 33 European states (excluding Albania), the USA and Canada to begin the process which was to result in the signing on 1 August 1975 in Helsinki of the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (the Helsinki Accords). This affirmed respect for states’ sovereign equality of states and the inviolability of the frontiers established after the Second World War, peaceful settlement of disputes, most favoured nation status in trade, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms as set down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 10 December 1948. Since the Final Act gained equivalent status to domestic legislation, its signing opened up new opportunities to entirely legally fight human rights violations by relying both on national and international law. The discovery of cases of persecution of people for their convictions from now on provided legally based grounds for criticism from other parties, and could no longer be labelled interference in the internal affairs of another country. This was used by human rights defenders who created civic groups to monitor the observance by states of their commitments in the field of human rights (the so-called “third basket”). On the initiative of Yury ORLOV, on 12 May 1976 the Moscow Public Group on the Assistance of the Implementation of the Helsinki Accords in the USSR (the Moscow Helsinki Group) came into being. Although Ukraine had not been separately represented at the Conference, on the initiative of former General Petro GRIGORENKO and writer and philosopher Mykola RUDENKO, on 9 November 1976 the Ukrainian Public Group to Promote the Implementation of the Helsinki Accords was formed.
The Helsinki movement soon became international, with the Lithuanian Helsinki Group being declared on 25.11.1976, the Georgian HG on 14.01.1977 and the Armenian HG on 1.04.1977. From September 1976 the Committee for the Defence of Workers was active in Poland, this later becoming the Committee for Civic Defence, while in January 1977 the “Charter-77” Group was formed in Czechoslovakia. A special commission in Congress was created in the USA.
The human rights defenders achieved a revolutionary turn in the awareness of the population which had been terrorised over the previous decades. In an unfree country they began to act like free citizens. They demanded the recognition of human rights by the state, i.e. their implementation, and began simply exercising their constitutional rights (freedom of speech and press, of demonstrations, association, and others), that is, understanding the laws to be what was written. Such behaviour elicited repression from the totalitarian states and, in response, fierce criticism from democratic states which to a considerable extent in the final analysis led to the failure of communist ideology and the collapse of the socialist bloc and the declarations of independence from a number of states, including Ukraine, with the opportunity to create law-based societies.
Since1977 meetings of the CSCE have taken place periodically. In 1994 the same structure became known as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Independent Ukraine officially joined what was still the CSCE on 30 January 1992.
In parallel the Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, a nongovernmental organization, has existed since 1982. It initiates and coordinates the activities of national Helsinki organizations monitoring the observance of human rights by their governments. The headquarters is in Vienna. From November 1998 to November 2004 the President was Ludmila Alexeeva. She was succeeded by Ulrich Fischer (Austria).
The traditions of the civic human rights movement in Ukraine were continued by the Ukrainian Helsinki Union (7.07. 1988 – 29.04. 1990), the Ukrainian “Helsinki-90” Committee (created on 16.06.1990) and the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union (created on 1.04.2004) which unites of a number of human rights organizations.