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December 25, 1981 - Image 14

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1981-12-25

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14 Friday, December 25, 1981

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PROFESSIONAL VI

LIVING MEMORIES

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

U.S. Senate Genocide Convention Approval Pending

(Editor's note: The U.S.
under President Harry
Truman took the lead to
sponsor the Genocide
Convention obligations
in the United Nations.
Some 100 countries, in-
cluding the USSR, have
adopted it. Nevertheless,
the U.S. Senate remains
complacent and fails to
endorse the important

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humanitarian movement
outlawing national mass
murders. The most recent
debate on the subject is
described in this article
by Ralph Nurnberger
which appeared in the
Near East Report.)
"On Dec. 3, the Senate
Foreign Relations Commit-
tee held hearings again on
the Genocide Convention.
Members and witnesses ex-
pressed the hope that, after
nearly 30 years, the Senate
would finally ratify it.
"Chairman Charles Percy
(R-I11.) noted that the Con-
vention had been an Ameri-
can initiative, and argued
the ratification would reaf-
firm this country's corn-
mitment to international
law and human dignity.
"Ranking minority
member Claiborne Pell
(D-R.I.) emphasized that
the Senate's continued fail-
ure to ratify raises doubts as
to whether the U.S. has
learned the lessons of the
Holocaust.

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"Witnesses included
Sen. William Proxmire
(D-Wis.); former Sen.
Jacob Javits; American
Bar Association (ABA)
representatives; Richard
Gardner, Columbia Uni-
versity international law
professor.
"Proxmire, who has de-
livered over 2,500 speeches
for ratification, stressed
that no subject has been
pending before the Senate
as long as this one. Until it
is ratified, he asserted, the
world would question
America's commitment to
its principles.
"Sen. Strom Thurmond
(R-S.C.) testified against
the treaty, claiming that
'where it should restrain at-
rocity it is not observed, and
where it would be observed
it is unnecessary.' He also
raised Constitutional objec-
tions. The ultra-right wing
Liberty Lobby provided the
only other hostile tes-
timony.
"Two groups" have tradi-
tionally been opposed to the
treaty. Some Constitutional
scholars have questioned
whether a treaty is a proper
vehicle to deal with crimes
of murder, which they be-
lieve should be handled by
the states, not the federal
government by means of an
international agreement.
"Other objections fo-
cused on certain am-
biguous language in the
treaty. For example, Ar-
ticle, II outlaws 'acts
committed with an intent
to destroy, in whole or in
part, a ... group.' The
phrase in part' might be
applied to a limited form
of race violence, such as
lynchings. These am-
biguities were ultimately
resolved by adding a
series of 'reservations' to
the treaty.
"The legal and Constitu-
tional opposition to the
treaty was originally led by
the ABA. When these objec-
tions were satisfactorily an-
swered, the ABA altered its
position in 1976, thereby
stripping the last vestige of
respectability from the op-
position.
"The second source of op-
position comes from ex-
treme right-wing groups,
whose arguments reflect
strong hints of racism and
anti-Semitism. They at-
tempt to hide behind
legalisms such as 'states
rights,' but their most effec-
tive approach has been to
misrepresent the treaty and
play upon the fears of their
followers.
"The rationale for the
Genocide Convention
emerged from the need to
punish the Nazis who had
conducted the policy of de-
liberate and systematic an-
nihilation of the Jews and
others. At their trials before
the Nuremberg Tribunals,
many Nazis claimed that
their actions had not been
against the law in Germany
and were not punishable in
international law.
"The Tribunals took
the position that these
crimes were beyond their
jurisdiction, as they”

not directly relate to the
planning and waging of
aggressive war.
"In rejecting this reason-
ing, President Harry Tru-
man stated that there were
certain crimes against hu-
manity that must be
punished whether or not
they were sanctioned by
domestic law. These crimes
include persecutions on
political, racial or religious
grounds.
"The effort to codify these
`crimes against humanity'
in international law was led
by Raphael Lemkin, a
lawyer from Warsaw who
lost over 70 relatives in the
Holocaust. Lemkin coined
the phrase 'genocide' from
the Greek word genos (race)
and the Latin word tide (to
kill).
"Lemkin convinced the
U.S. government to play an
active role on this issue at
the UN and to sponsor the
effort that resulted in UN
Resolution 96 (I), which de-
clared 'that genocide is a
crime under international
law which the civilized
world condemns and for the
commission of which prin-
cipals and accomplices are
punishable. The UN Gen-
eral Assembly adopted it on
Dec. 11, 1946.
"The UN resolution set
the stage for the adoption
of the Genocide Conven-
tion on Dec. 9, 1948.
Again, the U.S. played the
major role in drafting
and sponsoring the con-
vention.
"It attempts to prevent
the destruction of any na-
tional, ethnic, racial or reli-
gious group by defining
genocide, outlawing it, and
establishing procedures for
trying and punishing vio-
lators.
"The U.S. signed the con-
vention two days after it
was unanimously approved
by the General Assembly.

"President Truman sub-
mitted the treaty to the Se-
nate in June 1949 and urged
its speedy passage. A spe-
cially constituted subcom-
mittee of the Foreign Rela-
tions Committee held hear-
ings and recommended Se-
nate approval, with 'reser-
vations' clarifying poten-
tially ambiguous phrases.
These 'reservations' have
always been considered
when the issue has come be-
fore the Senate.
"Powerful oppositior
caused the treaty to lan-
guish throughout the
1950s.
"While Presidents John
Kennedy and Lyndon
Johnson gave half-hearted
support to the treaty, it was
Richard Nixon who, on Feb.
17, 1970, became the first
President since Truman
actively to urge Senate
ratification.
"Four times thereafter,
the committee endorsed the
treaty. The successful oppo-
sition was led by Sam Ervin
(D-N.C.), who based his
arguments on a strict con-
struction of the Constitu-
tion.
"The Carter Administra-
tion's strong support for
human rights and for the
Genocide Convention, Er-
vin's retirement, the ABA's
changed stance, and the
recommendations of Car-
ter's Commission on the
Holocaust all held out the
promise that the treaty
might be passed in the late
1970s. But it has still never
come to a vote.
"The
Percy-Pell-
Proxmire initiative is based
on the conviction that it is
essential for the ,U.S.,
through ratification of the
convention, to reaffirm its
support for international
law. Failure to ratify has
undermined the effective-
ness of our national human
rights advocacy."

Study: PLO Exaggerates
Its International Success

LONDON (JTA) — A
study' of the international
status won recently by the
Palestine Liberation
Organization concludes
that the PLO's claims of
success are exaggerated and
that "the substance of its re-
lations with individual
states is far more compli-
cated than the PLO indi-
cates.
The study by the Institute
of Jewish Affairs, (IJA), re-
search arm of the World
Jewish Congress, concedes
that the PLO's campaign for
worldwide diplomatic
recognition has had some
success "in spite of its un-
changed national covenant
and the continued militant
statements of its leaders."
However, the PLO's suc-
cesses in the Soviet Union,
Greece and Japan are far
less substantial when
analyzed in the context of
these states foreign policies,
the IJA -says.
Commenting on the
Soviet Union's recent an-
nouncement that it was
giving the PLO's Moscow

office full diplomatic
status, the institute
wrote:
"Direct negotiations with
Brezhnev for a man like
PLO Chief Yasir Arafat,
who does not represent a
state and who was therefore
received only by the unoffi-
cial Soviet committee of sol-
idarity with Asian and Afri-
can countries . . . certainly
represents an upgrading.
The study also noted that
"it is in the USSR's interest
to make the PLO too inde-
pendent since it sees the
PLO as a means of influenc-
ing Arab states and their
leaders. The PLO also walks
such a tightrope that it can
easily offend the Soviet
Union.
"The Soviet intervention
in Afghanistan, for exam-
ple; created great difficul-
ties for the PLO with its
strong Moslem leanings.
Fatah, the largest of the
PLO's constituent groups, is
predominantly Moslem."

Danger levels man and
brute.

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