Remarks on Signing the
Genocide Convention Implementation Act of 1987 (the Proxmire
Act) in Chicago, Illinois
November 4, 1988
good morning. We gather today to bear witness to the past and learn from its
awful example, and to make sure that we're not condemned to relive its crimes.
I am today signing the Genocide Convention Implementation Act of 1987, which
will permit the United States to become party to the
International Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of
Genocide that was approved by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.
the Second World War, mankind witnessed the most heinous of crimes: the
Holocaust. And after the war, the nations of the world came together and
drafted the genocide convention as a howl of anguish and an effort to prevent
and punish future acts of genocide. The United States signed the convention,
and in 1949 President Truman requested the Senate's advice and consent to
ratification. In 1986 the Senate gave its consent, conditioned upon enactment
of implementing legislation. We finally close the circles today by signing the
implementing legislation that will permit the United States to ratify the
convention and formally join 97 nations of the world in condemning genocide and
treating it as a crime.
delighted to fulfill the promise made by Harry Truman to all the peoples of the
world, and especially the Jewish people. I remember what the Holocaust meant to
me as I watched the films of the death camps after the Nazi defeat in World War
II. Slavs, Gypsies, and others died in the fires, as well. And we've seen other
horrors this century -- in the Ukraine, in Cambodia, in Ethiopia. They only renew our
rage and righteous fury, and make this moment all the more significant for me
and all Americans.
this legislation, 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. Lesser acts of violence are punishable by as much as 20 years in
prison and a fine of up to $1 million. While I would have preferred that
Congress had adopted the administration's proposal to permit the death penalty
for those convicted of genocidal murders, this legislation still represents a
strong and clear statement by the United States that it will punish
acts of genocide with the force of law and the righteousness of justice.
timing of the enactment is particularly fitting, for we're commemorating a week
of remembrance of the Kristallnacht, the infamous
``night of broken glass,'' which occurred 50 years ago on November
That night, Nazis in Germany and Austria conducted a pogrom
against the Jewish people. By the morning of November 10th, scores of Jews were
dead, hundreds bleeding, shops and homes in ruins, and synagogues defiled and
debased. And that was the night that began the Holocaust, the night that should
have alerted the world of the gruesome design of the Final Solution.
legislation resulted from the cooperation of our administration and many in
Congress, such as Congressmen Henry Hyde and Jack Davis and John Porter and
Senator Bill Proxmire, to ensure that the United States redoubles its efforts
to gain universal observance of human rights.
pay tribute to those who suffered that night and all the nights that followed
upon it with our action today.
I thank you, and God bless you all. And now I will sign the proclamation and
Note: The President
spoke at in the AirForceReserveBuilding at O'Hare InternationalAirport. S. 1851, approved November 4, was assigned Public Law No.
100 - 606.