Helsinki Watch was a U.S.-based group made up of private citizens devoted to monitoring compliance with the Helsinki Final Act, an international agreement signed in 1975 by thirty-five countries pledging to respect basic human and civil rights. The organization focused on human rights abuses in the Soviet Union, Eastern European nations, and the United States, documenting violations of the Helsinki Final Act in lengthy research reports and frequent press releases.
Helsinki Watch was conceived as an organization focused primarily on Eastern European human rights activists, working both to influence government policy and to keep the repression of dissidents under an international spotlight. Helsinki Watch, and in particular its executive director,
Helsinki Watch and its staff worked with ethnic interest groups focused on Eastern Europe as well as organizations concerned about the plight of Soviet Jews. Dissidents who had emigrated from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe often worked closely with Helsinki Watch, offering firsthand accounts of human rights violations to the organization’s researchers. Helsinki Watch pursued a range of objectives, including advocating for those who wished to emigrate from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, in particular for reasons of religious freedom or family reunification. In 1988, Helsinki Watch, along with committees devoted to monitoring human rights abuses elsewhere in the world, became part of a larger organization,
Laber, Jeri. The Courage of Strangers: Coming of Age with the Human Rights Movement. New York: PublicAffairs, 2002. Neier, Aryeh. Taking Liberties: Four Decades in the Struggle for Rights. New York: PublicAffairs, 2003.
New York City
Russian and Soviet immigrants
West Indian immigrants