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Genocide Convention (Ratifications)

Volume 527: debated on Monday 17 May 1954

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many nations have now ratified the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide; and whether Her Majesty's Government will now ratify the covenant.

Forty-three States have now ratified or acceded to the Convention on Genocide. As regards Her Majesty's Government's position, I have nothing to add to the statement which my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary made in answer to a Question by the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Reeves) on 11th November.

Is the right hon. and: learned Gentleman aware of the fact that our attitude in this matter is regarded as an unsatisfactory one and is, in effect, delaying the carrying into effect of a convention of which we approved? Will he say when he proposes to consider the legal' position, so that, even if technical reservations have to be introduced, we can accept the Convention with such reservations?

With regard to the first part of the hon. Member's question, I think that we have made our attitude towards the crime of genocide perfectly clear by performance as well as words. So far as the legal aspect is concerned, we do not believe in adhering to a convention unless we are prepared to bring in all the necessary legislation to define precisely the crimes which are referred to. That legislation is somewhat complicated, and there is also the question of finding time for it in the legislative programme.

But the right hon. and learned Gentleman said a year ago, and several years ago, that this matter was under consideration. Is it not time that this terrible crime was banned officially by us? Why does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman introduce the necessary legislation?

There are many difficulties involved. One is that it extends the number of crimes to which the death penalty applies, and it is a question whether it is desirable to do that when steps are being taken to consider the whole question of the death penalty. The matter is one of considerable complication.