LONDON (Oct. 24)
The British Government is giving “active consideration” to the question of becoming a party to the United Nations Genocide Convention, which Britain has never ratified, according to a statement in the House of Commons today by Edward Heath, Lord Privy Seal. He made his statement in response to statements in Parliament by two members of the Labor Party, Sir Barnett Janner and Hector Hughes.
Britain’s ratification of the Genocide Convention, Sir Barnett pointed out, has been hanging fire for a long time. Members of the British Commonwealth, he said, had agreed to abide by the Convention “while we are lagging behind.” There are cases,” he continued, “that cannot be dealt with in any other way, except through the Genocide Convention.”
Mr. Heath replied that there were “considerable difficulties” in the way of ratification of the Convention, “but we are determined to reach a conclusion as soon as possible.” He refuted a statement made by Mr. Hughes who had charged that “considerable damage” has been done to sections of the population as a result of the Government’s long delay.
Two other Laborites, Michael Foot and Sidney Silverman, criticized the Government for its delay on ratification of the UN anti-Genocide instrument. Mr. Heath replied that the difficulty related to an article in the Convention guaranteeing the right of political asylum, saying that there would be a need for Britain to amend its criminal code to provide such a right.
(In Washington today, it was pointed out that the United States Government has also, thus far, failed to ratify the UN Genocide Convention. Demands that Washington accede to that convention have been made frequently in the past few months by many Americans including, most recently, Dr. Joachim Prinz, president of the American Jewish Congress.)