Sakharov Hearings

The idea to organize a Sakharov Hearings was taken up by a group of émigrés in Copenhagen who obtained permission to use an auditorium in the Danish Parliament building. The result was the First Sakharov Hearing in Copenhagen on October 17-19, 1975, focusing on the Helsinki Accords signed that year. Sakharov welcomed the idea and other hearings followed:

  • Rome, Italy, November 25-28, 1977, on human rights violations in the USSR and Eastern Europe;
  • Washington D.C., September 26-29, 1979, on Economic and Social Rights;
  • Freedom of Movement and Socialist Legality;
  • Lisbon, Portugal, October 12-14, 1983, on Sakharov in exile, workers' rights, intellectual and artistic freedom in the Soviet Bloc, and Poland(part of a special session);
  • London, UK, April 10-11, 1985, focusing on ten years of the Helsinki Accords.

The object of these hearings was to expose human rights violations in the USSR and Eastern Europe, and to draw attention to the Helsinki Accords. Witnesses testifying at the hearings had to satisfy the criteria of credibility and absence of ulterior motives to give convincing first-hand testimony on the state of human rights in these countries.

Key 20th-century human rights figures, like Sakharov and Simon Wiesenthal, were involved in all five hearings, and many prominent exile Soviet dissidents, as well as some Eastern European dissidents, played important roles. The jury consisted of well-known statesmen, scholars and public figures.
Throughout the years, the hearings were well covered by the media and recognized as an important tool in promoting human rights and the implementation of the commitments of the Helsinki Accords. In 1985, US Ambassador Max M. Kampelman paid tribute to the "extraordinarily vital role that the Sakharov hearings have played in recent years.” Simon Wiesenthal devoted part of his memoirs to his participation in the Sakharov Hearings. Journalist Hella Pick of The Guardian stated that “…the International Sakharov Hearings certainly helped to convince Gorbachev, newly installed as President, that his credibility in the West demanded freedom for Sakharov as one of the early moves of his Presidency." 

First Sakharov Hearings
Copenhagen, 1975

Second Sakharov Hearings
Rome, 1977

Third Sakharov Hearings
Washington D.C., 1979

Fourth Sakharov Hearings
Lisbon, 1983

Fifth Sakharov Hearings
London, 1985

Reviving the Helsinki Spirit
Central coordination office
Andrei Sakharov Research Center for Democratic Development


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