1986 – The U.S. Senate approved a treaty outlawing genocide. The pact had been submitted 37 years earlier for ratification.

  • Participation in the Genocide Convention
    * Signed and ratified  
    *Acceded or succeeded

CHICAGO, NOV. 4 — More than four decades after the horror of the Nazi Holocaust, President Reagan made genocide a crime under U.S. law today, signing legislation implementing a 1948 treaty first endorsed by President Harry S Truman.

The Genocide Convention Implementation Act that Reagan signed in an unusual ceremony at O’Hare International Airport here adds the United States to a list of nearly 100 countries that have approved the United Nations pact.

With a group of Jewish leaders watching, Reagan said, “We gather today to bear witness to the past and learn from its awful example to make sure we are not condemned to relive its crimes.” Truman requested the Senate’s ratification of the treaty in 1949.

But it was not until 1986 that the Senate, breaking a conservative blockade that lasted for decades, gave its consent to the implementing legislation.

The House gave final approval to the measure in mid-October. The legislation meets the requirements under the treaty that signatory nations define genocide and make it a crime.
Under the law, any U.S. national or any person in the United States who kills members of a national, ethnic, racial or religious group with the specific intent of destroying that group “in whole or in substantial part, may spend his or her life in prison.”
The White House said that Sen. William Proxmire (D-Wis.), who fervently supported the treaty for 19 years, was unable to attend.


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