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Senate Unit to Approve Genocide Convention by Next Wednesday

September 14, 1984
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will approve the United Nations convention against genocide no later than its regular meeting next Wednesday, Alan Safran, a committee staff member, said today.

But there was some question whether the Senate will be able to ratify the treaty before Congress adjourns October 5. Sen. Jesse Helms (R. N.C.), who used his prerogative to delay the vote yesterday, might threaten a filibuster if the convention is brought to the floor.

Elliott Abrams, Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, who urged the committee to approve the Convention, said that the Reagan Administration would not insist that the treaty be brought to the floor if it faced a filibuster that “might make it impossible to do other important business.”

When Sen. Charles Percy (R. III.) the committee’s chairman, sought to get a vote yesterday, Helms accused him of trying to “railroad” the treaty through without considering two riders that Helms offered. Percy angrily replied that 35 years of hearings “cannot be called railroading.”


Helms, who like many other conservatives opposes the treaty, said his riders were aimed at preventing the Convention from superceding the Constitution and to reserve the right of the United States not to submit certain matters covered by the Convention to the International Court of Justice.

But Abrams, in his testimony, stressed that after a comprehensive legal review by both the State and Justice Departments, “we are firm in our conviction that all constitutional questions have been answered.” He noted that the American Bar Association, which has long opposed ratification, since 1976 has supported it and “its legal explanation and defense of the present proposal should satisfy all of the prior constitutional objections to the Convention.”

Abrams stressed that the United States, “one of the chief recipients of the survivors of the Holocaust, has found itself in the embarrassing position in the international forum of having failed to ratify the Convention, thereby not expressing formally through an international treaty our staunch opposition to the heinous crime of genocide.”

The Convention of the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was signed by President Truman on December 11, 1948. Although approved by 96 other countries, and endorsed by every President since Truman, except for Eisenhower, the Senate has failed to ratify the convention, largely because of conservative opposition.

It was this opposition that was apparently the reason for President Reagan’s long silence on the Convention. But on the eve of Reagan’s address to the B’nai B’rith International convention here last week, the Administration announced for ratification. Reagan reiterated the endorsement to B’nai B’rith which, like other American Jewish groups, has long advocated ratification.

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