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The East: Communism's Legacy Remains Strong

Washington, 12 September 1997 (RFE/RL) - The U.S. State Department, in its latest human rights review, praises Estonia and sees improving human rights records in several countries of the former Soviet bloc. But in many areas, it finds the legacy of authoritarianism remains strong in former communist countries.

The assessment comes in the State Department's 35th annual review of compliance with the Helsinki Final Act, covering the period from April 1996 through March of this year.

As required by U.S. law, the 80-page report has been submitted to the U.S. Congress and was made public this week.

It reviews observance of Helsinki commitments in 19 countries where the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe maintains a mission or is actively engaged in resolving problems.

Three countries have been dropped from the list of those included in the 1995-96 report -- Lithuania, Romania and Slovenia.

A U.S. official told our correspondent that Estonia remains under review only because the OSCE has a mission there concerned with integration of the ethnic Russian community.

The other 18 countries include Albania, Slovakia and Latvia, as well as all the post-Soviet states and most of former Yugoslavia.

Serbia and Montenegro are excluded because they have been suspended from OSCE membership.

The report also praised Macedonia's observance of Helsinki obligations and found significant improvement in Moldova.

But it said the human rights situation worsened in the review period in Kyrgyzstan, Belarus and Slovakia and in many other countries, including Russia and Ukraine. the record was mixed.

However, the report noted what it called "substantial progress" in Russia, owing mostly to the end of the war in Chechnya. Amd it said Ukraine is making "steady progress" in carrying out its Helsinki commitments.

In addition to the annual Helsinki review, the U.S. State Department also reports to the Congress every year, usually in January, on worldwide compliance with the United Nations Declaration of Universal Human Rights.

The U.S. official said the Helsinki review holds countries to higher standards on specific issues of democracy-building and security.