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Senate Unit Deadlocked over a ‘package of Conditions’ for Ratifying the Genocide Convention

April 26, 1985
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee remained deadlocked today over a “package of conditions” demanded by conservatives for ratification of the international convention against genocide which the United States signed 36 years ago.

Supporters of ratification of the document as it stands, made it clear that they would vote against it on the Senate floor if the conditions, which they feel water down the spirit and concept of the anti-genocide pact, are adopted.

Conservatives, who express concern that the treaty would compromise U.S. sovereignty, indicated that without the conditions, there would be stronger opposition to ratification then there was when the convention failed on the Senate floor last fall.


The condition most vigorously demanded by conservatives, notably Sen. Jesse Helms (R. N.C.), would make jurisdiction of the World Court in cases of alleged or attempted genocide contingent on U.S. consent when the U.S. is a party to the dispute. Another condition would bar submission of cases involving the U.S. to a “Penal Tribunal,” which is mentioned in the convention but which does not now exist, unless a separate treaty is concluded for that purpose.

The Reagan Administration has endorsed ratification in principle, with certain changes of language. The package of conditions was strongly supported by Sen. Richard Lugar (R. Ind.), the committee chairman, who warned today that the “concerns” of conservatives “have been sufficient to block ratification of the convention for 36 years” and “if they are not addressed they will be sufficient to block ratification during this Congress as well.”

But Sen. Charles Mathias (R. Md.) said he would not go along with the limitation of the jurisdiction of the World Court even if it meant a filibuster on the Senate floor. He said he would oppose the conditions “on principle.”

Sen. Christopher Dodd (D. Conn.) said he would try to find a compromise to end the deadlock. But it became clear from today’s deliberations that there could be no compromise on the World Court issue that would satisfy both Dodd and Helms. Helms repeated today a suggestion he made at previous hearings that Israel could be victimized by exploitation of the World Court under the treaty. Addressing himself “to our Jewish friends” who have lobbies strongly for ratification, Helms suggested “that one of the first nations to be hauled before the international court is going to the State of Israel.”

Elliott Abrams, Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, who testified at today’s hearings, also referred to Israel. In response to a question, he said that Israel, which signed the convention without reservations in 1949, has taken the position that it cannot accept World Court jurisdiction without its consent.

But Dodd observed that no nation, not even Iraq, Egypt or Saudi Arabia, all of which have signed the convention, has ever attempted to raise charges of genocide against Israel or to use the World Court for that purpose.

The committee adjourned today without setting a date for its next hearing on the issue.

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