IO Files: US(P)/A/M(Chr)/9

Minutes of the Ninth Meeting of the United States Delegation, Paris, Hotel d’Iéna, September 30, 1948


[Here follow list of persons (32) present and discussion of prior agenda items.]

3. Genocide. (Mr. Gross)

Mr. Gross explained that this was the first item to be considered by Committee 6. Reviewing the history of the action taken by the United [Page 296] Nations on genocide, Mr. Gross referred to the fact that the Assembly in 1946 had declared genocide to be a crime under international law, and had gone on record in favor of a declaration on this subject. Subsequently, an ad hoc committee of ECOSOC had drafted the actual convention1 which was before the Assembly for decision. He noted that, while the United States favored international enforcement of the convention, the U.S.S.R. had consistently taken the line that enforcement should be by national courts alone. In addition, the United Kingdom opposed the United States position, and favored the reference of the convention for detailed study to the International Law Commission, which could, in particular, perform more work on the definition of genocide. This would, of course, delay adoption of a convention which suited the British, since they were actually opposed to any convention. So far as the U.S.S.R. was concerned, while it had attempted to make propaganda out of the convention, in the last analysis, because of its position on national enforcement, Mr. Gross thought it would not adhere to a convention acceptable to the United States.

He recommended that the United States support the convention, which he noted was favored by many civic and religious organizations in the United States. Mr. Gross presented the following recommendations to the Delegation: (1) the United States should support in general the text of the convention; (2) the Delegation should endeavor to add to Articled “economic” and “social” groups, although the position here would be flexible in terms of the position taken by other states; and (3) if a number of states strongly opposed the inclusion of “political” groups in the convention, the Delegation should reconsider this matter. Mr. Gross explained that it had been felt that it was not appropriate to press for the inclusion of “economic” and “social” groups at the price of losing support for the convention. He noted also that some of the Latin American states and the Soviet bloc did not like the reference to “political” groups, which the United State thought very important. He did not wish any final decision to be taken on this matter until the positions of other states had been disclosed by debate in Committee 6. There were also likely to be proposals to include “religious” or “cultural” groups in the convention. He would regard this as a dangerous extension, particularly because it would not seem desirable to apply the convention to individuals. It should be strictly limited to “actions against individuals.

Mr. Dulles thought it was important to try to add provisions for “economic” and “social” groups to the convention. After all, the idea [Page 297] behind the convention was that people should not be killed except for malfeasance. He thought persecution for economic and social views was a great danger, and if it were not dealt with in the convention, the United Nations was almost, by silence, implicitly approving attacks on such groups. Mrs. Roosevelt agreed that, while it was probably desirable to include economic and social groups, their inclusion was at the same time an argument for the inclusion of cultural genocide, to which the United States was opposed. Mr. Dulles, however, did not think it was necessarily desirable to perpetuate foreign language groups, for example, within another country, referring to his experience in the Italian Peace Treaty negotiations. Mrs. Roosevelt said she had meant that those who wished to continue the use of their own language and follow their own customs should be permitted to do so. She noted that some States forbade this sort of thing; in such a situation that the concept of cultural genocide would be helpful.

Mr. Thorp observed that the real question was whether the convention should be limited to the right of the minority to survive, or whether it should also describe their rights and privileges. He thought these latter principles could be developed elsewhere. Mr. Jessup thought it might be undesirable to oppose Article 3 in terms of the general American position on the protection of minority rights. It should be made clear that our opposition to this article did not indicate any lack of support for the rights of minorities. Mr. Gross thought that, in discussion, it would be important to emphasize the relationship of the convention on genocide to the Declaration on Human Rights. In his opinion, it was better to preserve the integrity of this convention to the issue of life and death. The Secretary pointed out that if the term “cultural” were used, it would lead to endless debates on its definition.

The Secretary then asked for the Delegation’s views on the recommendations, and the recommendations were accepted; except that, on the recommendation of Mr. Gross, the Delegation decided that it would be appropriate not to include social groups. It would, however, favor the inclusion of economic groups.

[Here follows discussion of another subject.]

  1. For text of the ad hoc committee draft (United Nations document E/794), see United Nations, Official Records of the Economic and Social Council, Third Year, Seventh Session, Supplement No. 6.