Pope Benedict XVI will not be formally investigated or charged for crimes against humanity the International Criminal Court at The Hague has just announced. The case, brought against Benedict and several Vatican cardinals by Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), was rejected on grounds of jurisdiction and evidence.
The tribunal, based in The Hague, “told attorneys for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests that ‘there is not a basis at this time to proceed with further analysis,’” an AP article in The Huffington Post states:
“The matters described in your communication do not appear to fall within the jurisdiction of the court,” a court official wrote in a May 31 letter to the Center for Constitutional Rights, the nonprofit legal group that represents the victims. The legal organization released the letter Thursday.
Pam Spees, senior staff attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights, said her group was confident it could collect enough evidence as new abuse victims come forward to press the tribunal to reconsider.
The odds against the court opening an investigation have been enormous. The prosecutor has received more than 9,700 independent proposals for inquiries since 2002, when the court was created as the world’s only permanent war crimes tribunal, and has never opened a formal investigation based solely on such a request.
Attorneys for the victims had argued the global church maintained a “long-standing and pervasive system of sexual violence” despite promises to swiftly oust predators.
The Survivors Network argued that rape, sexual violence and torture are considered crimes against humanity as described in the international treaty that spells out the court’s mandate. The complaint also accuses Benedict and Vatican officials of creating policies that perpetuated the damage, constituting an attack against a civilian population.
But the court wrote in its letter to victims’ attorneys that it can only investigate crimes committed after the tribunal was formed and can only examine “the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.”
“It appears that some of these preconditions are not satisfied with respect to the conduct described,” the court wrote. “Some of the allegations described in your communication do not appear to fall within the court’s temporal jurisdiction, and other allegations do not appear to fall within the court’s subject-matter jurisdiction.”
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