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Thursday, 24 February 1977


Dr Klugman asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:

(   1) Has he seen or heard of a document called Charter 77, published in Czechoslovakia by so-called dissidents.

(2)   Can he supply the House with any relevant sections of the so-called Helsinki agreement dealing with ( a) the protection of human rights in signatory countries and (b) any undertakings by signatories not to interfere in other countries.


Mr Peacock (KOOYONG, VICTORIA) (Minister for Foreign Affairs) - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   1 have seen reports referring to a document known as Charter 77'. This document, which was signed by several hundred Czechoslovak citizens, was published widely in the Western press on 6-7 January 1977 and deals with the question of human rights and civil liberties in Czechoslovakia.

(2)   Sections of the Final Act of the Helsinki Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe dealing with the protection of Human rights and with the principle of noninterference in other countries' affairs are set out below. I might add that although, as a non-European country, Australia did not attend the Helsinki Conference, the Government fully supports the principles of the Final Act of that Conference and sets particular store by Article No. VII on Respect for Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which clearly places an obligation on all signatories to promote and respect human rights and civil liberties in their respective countries.

Final Act of CSCE:

Article I. Sovereign equality, respect for the rights inherent in sovereignty

The participating States will respect each other's sovereign equality and individuality as well as all the rights inherent in and encompassed by its sovereignty, including in particular the right of every State to juridical equality, to territorial integrity and to freedom and political independence. They will also respect each other's right freely to choose and develop its political, social, economic and cultural systems as well as its right to determine its laws and regulations.

Within the framework of international law, all the participating States have equal rights and duties. They will respect each other's right to define and conduct as it wishes its relations with other States in accordance with international law and in the spirit of the present Declaration. They consider that their frontiers can be changed, in accordance with international law, by peaceful means and by agreement. They also have the right to belong or not to belong to international organisations, to be or not to be a party to bilateral or multilateral treaties including the right to be or not to be a party to treaties of alliance; they also have the right to neutrality.

Final Act of CSCE:

Article VI Non-intervention in internal affairs

The participating States will refrain from any intervention, direct or indirect, individual or collective, in the internal or external affairs falling within the domestic jurisdiction of another participating State, regardless of their mutual relations.

They will accordingly refrain from any form of armed intervention or threat of such intervention against another participating State.

They will likewise in all circumstances refrain from any other act of military, or of political, economic or other coercion designed to subordinate to their own interest the exercise by another participating State of the rights inherent in its sovereignty ana thus to secure advantages of any kind.

Accordingly, they will, inter alia, refrain from direct or indirect assistance to terrorist activities, or to subversive or other activities directed towards the violent overthrow of the regime of another participating State.

Final Act of CSCE:

Article VII. Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief

The participating States will respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief, for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.

They will promote and encourage the effective exercise of civil, political, economic, social, cultural and other rights and freedoms all of which derive from the inherent dignity of the human person and are essential for his free and full development.

Within this framework the participating States will recognise and respect the freedom of the individual to profess and practise, alone or in community with others, religion or belief acting in accordance with the dictates of his own conscience.

The participating States on whose territory national minorities exist will respect the right of persons belonging to such minorities to equality before the law, will afford them the full opportunity for the actual enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms and will, in this manner, protect their legitimate interests in this sphere.

The participating States recognise the universal significance of human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for which is an essential factor for the peace, justice and well-being necessary to ensure the development of friendly relations and co-operation among themselves as among all States.

They will constantly respect these rights and freedoms in their mutual relations and will endeavour jointly and separately, including in co-operation with the United Nations, to promote universal and effective respect for them.

They confirm the right of the individual to know and act upon his rights and duties in this field.

In the field of human rights and fundamental freedoms, the participating States will act in conformity with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They will also fulfil their obligations as set forth in the international declarations and agreements in this field, including inter alia the International Covenants on Human Rights, by which they may be bound.







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