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Helsinki Federation Holds First Meeting In Communist Country

May 20, 1988

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ The International Helsinki Federation, a non-governmental group monitoring violations of human rights, opened a 3-day meeting in this Yugoslav capital Thursday, its first in a communist country.

The executive director of the Vienna-based Federation, Gerald Nagler, said earlier this week the gathering hoped to ″build bridges between Yugoslav officials and local human right activists.″

The meeting was held in a local hotel without much publicity.

″We never asked for permission to meet here. The Yugoslavs are not exactly welcoming us with open arms, but they are tolerating us,″ David Matas, a Canadian lawyer from Winnipeg, told The Associated Press.

A six-hour discussion was held on the human rights situation in Eastern Europe.

Among those attending the meeting were members of an unofficial human rights forum set up in Yugoslavia last year to operate along with the Federation.

The Yugoslavs sketched cases of what they considered human rights violations in this country - which is communist but outside the Soviet bloc - to about 20 to 30 fellow members of the Federation.

Representatives came from the United States, Canada, West Germany, Italy, Norway, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands and other countries, Matas said.

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