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Human Rights Group Asks Data On Soviet Prisoner Deaths

September 20, 1985

LONDON (AP) _ Amnesty International said Friday it had called on the Soviet Union to publish a full account of the reported deaths of prisoners at a labor camp for political detainees.

The human rights group said it made the appeal in a letter to the Soviet procurator-general in Moscow following reports of the fourth death in 16 months at the ″special regime″ labor colony near Perm, 750 miles east of Moscow.

Amnesty said it was seeking confirmation that a 47-year-old Ukrainian poet and human rights activist, Vasyl Stus, had died at the facility earlier this month.

Three other prisoners, Oleksi Tikhy, 57, Valery Marchenko, 37 and Yury Litvin, 50, have died there since May 1984, Amnesty said.

In each case, camp officials decided against early release of the prisoners although all were ill before their deaths, it said.

Amnesty International, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977, monitors human rights activities in both the eastern and western blocs.

It urged Soviet authorities to release the medical records and post-mortem results to the dead men’s families, and asked that relatives be allowed to arrange independent autopsies.

In the past, officials have kept this information secret and often have not given back the prisoner’s body for burial, Amnesty said.

It said it had asked Soviet authorities to ensure the immediate release of other seriously ill prisoners in the camp.

The Perm colony was established in 1980 and is in the Soviet Union’s harshest category of penal camps. It is designated for repeat offenders considered ″especially dangerous,″ Amnesty said.

It said many of the 35 men there had been repeatedly imprisoned for non- violent attempts to express their beliefs.

Stus, Tikhy and Litvin were imprisoned for membership in the unofficial Ukrainian Helsinki Monitoring Group, founded to watch the Soviet Union’s compliance with the human rights provisions of the 1975 Helsinki accords, it said. Valery Marchenko was a Ukrainian journalist convicted of making ″anti- Soviet″ statements during a previous imprisonment.

The U.S. State Department reported earlier that Marchenko died Oct. 7, 1984.

Tikhy was a founding member of the Ukrainian monitoring group and was sentenced to 10 years in prison camps in early 1977.

Litvin was arrested Aug. 6, 1979, and given a three-year term on a conviction of assaulting a police officer. Another 10 years was added to his term in Dec. 1981 on charges of anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda.

Stus was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment in 1977 on charges of anti- Soviet agitation and propaganda.

Amnesty International said prisoners at the Prem colony must perform hard labor on a limited diet. Many reportedly have been subjected to prolonged punishment involving solitary confinement and reduction of food, even while seriously ill.

Medical care is rudimentary and often withheld from those who need it, the organization said. Some prisoners had been denied visits from their families, who could have lodged complaints on their behalf, it said.