Soviet behavior following its recently launched "human rights offensive" should be closely monitored, a prominent dissident advocate said yesterday at a Law School conference on "Dissent and Religious Persecution in the Soviet Union."
Irwin Cotler, a McGill University law professor who was co-counsel for recently released Soviet dissident Anatoly (Natan) Shcharansky, said he told the Soviets at a human rights convention this month that their new rhetoric about the importance of human rights must be matched by real change.
Cotler joined Soviet emigres, a State Department official, and others who spoke at the Austin Hall symposium, which was sponsored by Jewish community organizations and legal advocacy groups.
A mock Soviet trial closed the day of discussion on such issues as the diversity of dissidents in the USSR and the means of legal advocacy used to address Soviet human rights violations.
Organizers said they hoped the conference would encourage student involvement in human rights questions. About half of the 130 symposium participants were students, organizers estimated.
Speakers differed on the American Bar Association's recent decision to recognize and meet with the Association of Soviet Lawyers. An outspoken opponent of the contacts was Professor of Law Alan Dershowitz, who worked with Cotler on the Shcharansky case.
"The ABA screwed up," Dershowitz said. "The phrase 'Soviet lawyer' is an oxymoron. It's like 'Justice Rehnquist.'"
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