WASHINGTON (Sep. 6)
President Reagan went before a large Jewish audience today to officially announce that his Administration will now “vigorously support” U.S. ratification of the United Nations Convention against genocide.
“I want you to know that we intend to use the Convention in our efforts to expand human freedom and fight human rights abuses around the world,” Reagan told the biennial convention of B’nai B’rith International at the Sheraton Washington Hotel. “Like you, I say in a forthright voice, ‘never again.’”
B’nai B’rith has long called for the adoption of the Genocide Convention. But the President has refused to call for its ratification by the Senate up to now, apparently because of opposition from some conservatives. The State Department announced the new position today.
Reagan explained today that the decision was made after a “long and exhaustive study” because of concern about the international covenant “in part due to the human rights abuses performed by some nations that have already ratified the document.”
THE GENOCIDE CONVENTION
The General Assembly of the United Nations approved unanimously on December 9, 1948 a Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The Convention specifies that “genocide is a crime under international law which the civilized world condemns, and for the commission of which principals and accomplices are punishable.”
More than 90 countries, with the notable exception of the United States have approved the Convention, which was prompted by the Nazi mass wartime slaughter of six million Jews.
The Convention was passed by the General Assembly partly because of the persistent efforts of Raphael Lemkin, a Polish-born Jewish attorney, who coined the term “genocide” and worked vigorously for years to get UN approval of the proposal.
The United States participated in drafting the Convention and President Truman sent it to the Senate in 1949. Every president since then, except Eisenhower, and, previously, Reagan,has recommended approval but it has been blocked repeatedly by conservatives and isolationists in the Senate who fear it would expose Americans to dubious charges of genocide before a foreign court lacking American constitutional guarantees.
Reagan’s speech today, which was interrupted many times by applause, included his declaration of support of Israel, a rejection of anti-Semitism and of quotas, and a denunciation of the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua as anti-Semitic.
But he spoke only briefly about the issue of separation of church and state and not at all about the issue of religion in politics which was the theme of Walter Mondale, the Democratic Presidential.
(Continued P. 2, Col. I)