Carter Asks Senate to Ratify Convention on Genocide

President Carter today recommended to the Senate that it ratify the International Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide that the United States has failed to do since the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted it more than 28 years ago. Successive American Presidents, beginning with President Truman, have urged its ratification but opponents in the Senate have blocked it from coming to a vote.

Senate ratification is necessary to make it binding on the United States. The last attempts to override a filibuster in 1974, failed to gain the needed majorities. Opponents fear it will interfere with American justice. All major Jewish American organizations have consistently called for its ratification.

In a letter to the Senate, Carter noted that the Convention was “initially drafted in the wake of the wanton acts committed by some of our enemies during the Second World War.” He noted it has 83 parties that “undertake to establish genocide as a criminal behavior under their own legal systems.” Among its supporters, he observed, is the American Bar Association.

The letter was disclosed as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee opened hearings to renew the ratification process. Two State Department officials, Warren Christopher, Deputy Secretary of State, Herbert J. Hansell, the State Department’s legal advisor, and Sen. William Proxmire (D. Wisc.) who is a leading proponent of the genocide treaty, urged ratification.

Proxmire told the Committee: “None of us can envision the monstrosity of six million Jews put to death in concentration camps–the most hideous genocide committed in our lifetime. But it is in this context that this human rights document was conceived.” The Convention, he said, “attempts to safeguard under international law the most fundamental human principle–the right to live. It is that simple. It is that complex.”

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