In response to:

Prisoners of Conscience from the February 2, 1989 issue

To the Editors:

In The New York Review of February 2, 1989, you published an open letter from Vaclav Havel and others highlighting the plight of Czechoslovak human rights activists Ivan Jirous and Jiri Tichy. Your readers may be interested in the following statement which calls for charges against Jirous and Tichy, and six other independent Czechoslovak peace and human rights activists, to be dropped and for those among them in detention to be released.

Jirous and Tichy were sentenced (on March 9) to 16 and 6 months imprisonment, respectively; they have appealed against their sentences. Two others mentioned in the statement, Tomas Dvorak and Hana Marvanova, are on trial. They face up to three years in prison. Petr Cibulka (in pre-trial detention), and Lubos Vydra, Jiri Stencl and Dusan Skala (not in detention) face between two and ten years in jail.

The sentences passed, and those threatened (and the ones handed out to Havel and others for participating in the peaceful commemoration, on January 16, of Jan Palach’s suicide), are part of a general crackdown by the Czechoslovak authorities on independent activity and thought.

Full details of all these cases can be obtained from END or from the Campaign for Peace and Democracy/East and West, PO Box 1640, Cathedral Station, New York, NY 10025.

Lynne Jones
European Nuclear Disarmament
London, England

We are human rights activists, peace campaigners, trade unionists, political representatives, environmental activists, writers and artists who wish to express our deep concern at the charges recently brought against eight Czechoslovak citizens.

Tomas Dvorak, Lubos Vydra, and Hana Marvanova, members of the Independent Peace Association–Initiative for the Demilitarisation of Society, are charged with “incitement,” mainly in connection with independent demonstrations held in Prague in 1988.

Jiri Stencl, Petr Cibulka, Ivan Jirous, Dusan Skala, and Jiri Tichy are charged in connection with a petition to the Czechoslovak authorities. Inter alia, this accuses the authorities of responsibility for the death in prison in Spring 1988 of independent activist Pavel Wonka. (Cibulka has also been charged with “economic crimes.”)

Citizens, in both East and West, have an important role to play in promoting detente, cooperation and trust across the military blocs. However, if relations between nations are to be improved, citizens must also be able to participate fully in the affairs of their own countries, whether they are working for disarmament, social justice, on ecological issues or for political reform.

Reforms and democratisation in the Soviet Union and some other Warsaw Pact countries thus are helping to undermine the Cold War. We believe these actions by the Czechoslovak authorities—which contravene the United Nations Covenants on Civil and Political and on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights, incorporated into Czechoslovak law, and the spirit of the 1975 Helsinki Accords—violate the spirit of the reforms and hinder the prospect of overcoming the bloc system and promoting peace in Europe.

We call for an end to legal proceedings against these men and women and for the release of those among them still in prison.


Neal Ascherson; John Edmonds, General Secretary, General, Municipal and Boiler-makers’ Union; Lynne Jones, Chairperson, END; Mary Kaldor, END; Ron Keating, Assistant General Secretary, National Union of Public Employees; Harold Pinter; E.P. Thompson; Stuart Weir, editor, New Statesman and Society; The Labour Party

Joan Baez; Noam Chomsky; Daniel Ellsberg; Todd Gitlin; Joanne Landy, Campaign for Peace and Democracy/East and West; William Sloane Coffin, President, Sane/Freeze; Winton Jackson, Across Frontiers; David McReynolds, UN representative, WRI and International Peace Bureau; Pam Solo, co-director, Institute for Peace and International Security; I.F. Stone; Jim Wallis, Sojourners
Barbel Bohley; Martin Böttger; Ulrike Poppe; Reinhard Weisshuhn; The Peace and Human Rights Initiative
Gabor Demszky, editor, Hirmondo, Alliance of Free Democrats; Janos Kis, co-editor, Beszelö, Alliance of Free Democrats; Gyorgy Konrad; Zsuzsa Szelenyi, FIDESZ (League of Young Democrats); Ferenc Miszlivetz, East-West Dailogue Group; Ottilia Solt, sociologist, Foundation for the Poor
Aneta Rupetal; Krystyna Surowiec, Freedom and Peace (WiP); Jacek Czaputowicz, Future Times (a section of WiP); Piotr Niemczyk, Polish-Czechoslovak Solidarity
Alexei Grishin, Socialist Initiative; V.A. Kusin, Democratic Union; Vlodimir Martynjuk, Ukrainian Youth Club; Oleg Rumjancev, Democratic Perestroika

Ingrid Baksé; Tomas Mastnak, People for Peace Culture, Ljubljana; Sonia Licht, Belgrade Peace and Democracy Group; Milan Nikolic, Belgrade Helsinki Committee

Radha Kumar, Movement Against Communalism, India; Mient Jan Faber, Secretary General, Interchurch Peace Council, Netherlands; Nevzat Helvazi, Turkish Human Rights Association; Petra Kelly, member of Bundestag, West German Greens
and over 350 other signatories in twenty-three countries
Organizations listed for identification purposes only.

This Issue

April 13, 1989