MOSCOW -- A delegation from the human rights monitoring group Amnesty International arrived Wednesday on an unprecedented trip that will include visits to a labor camp and a mental hospital.
'It is a very positive thing that we are here,' Ian Martin, the London-based group's secretary general, said in an interview with the official Tass news agency.
Martin said the delegation, including Amnesty officials Marjorie Farquharson and Jan Herman Burgers, was the first to the Soviet Union since the organization was founded 28 years ago. The tour follows a similar visit earlier this month by a team of U.S. psychiatrists, lawyers and translators to Soviet mental hospitals.
The Americans complained of some difficulties in obtaining medical records and some obstructions that had to be overcome before patients could be interviewed at some of the hospitals they visited.
Martin said his delegation would visit a mental hospital and a penal labor camp.
Amnesty has often invoked the wrath of governments around the world for its reports on torture and human and civil rights abuses against prisoners.
'We are extremely pleased to have the opportunity to meet government officials here,' Martin said. 'We want to discuss areas of international cooperation for the protection of human rights, to have the opportunity of learning more about discussions of legal changes currently under way in the Soviet Union and to raise matters that have been of concern to our organization.
'We have stated publicly on a number of occasions that we have noted many positive developments in the Soviet Union,' he said. 'There are still matters of concern to us, but there are also areas of cooperation we want to explore.'
The Tass dispatch did not say how long the Amnesty delegation would be in the Soviet Union.