UN experts urge Catholic Church to act on sexual abuse, grant reparations


GENEVA (June 21, 2021) – UN human rights experts * urged the Holy See to take all necessary measures to stop and prevent the recurrence of violence and sexual abuse against children in Catholic institutions, and to ensure that those responsible are held to account and that reparations are paid to the victims.

In a letter to the Holy See in April 2021, experts expressed “their greatest concern at the many allegations around the world of sexual abuse and violence committed by members of the Catholic Church against children, and on measures adopted by the Catholic Church to protect alleged aggressors, cover up crimes, hinder the responsibility of alleged aggressors and avoid reparations due to victims ”.

Experts noted the persistent allegations of obstruction and lack of cooperation by the Catholic Church with national legal proceedings to prevent perpetrators from being held responsible and reparations to victims. They also noted the
concordat and other agreements negotiated by the Holy See with states that limit the ability of civil authorities to interrogate, compel the production of documents or prosecute persons associated with the Catholic Church.

“We urge the authorities of the Holy See to refrain from any obstructive practice and to cooperate fully with the civil judicial authorities and law enforcement agencies of the countries concerned, as well as to refrain from signing or using existing agreements to escape the responsibility of Church members accused of abuse, ”they said.

They also raised concerns about continued attempts by members of the Catholic Church to undermine legislative efforts to prosecute child sex offenders in national jurisdictions, as well as pressure to preserve the statute of limitations which prevents victims who reach adulthood – when they do the harm they suffered in court – from reporting these crimes.

“We urge members of the Catholic Church to refrain from implementing practices that reduce victims’ access to justice for the violations they have suffered,” they added.

The UN experts welcomed the recent rules established by the Holy See to abolish papal secrecy in cases of sexual abuse, and to allow the reporting of such cases and the submission of documents to the civil authorities of the jurisdictions concerned. However, they noted with regret that the request to report crimes to civilian authorities was not yet mandatory and urged them to do so as soon as possible.

Experts have noted the first lawsuits in the Vatican Criminal Court for sexual abuse and cover-up in a Vatican seminar. “We urge the relevant authorities to prosecute all suspected cases of child sexual abuse and / or cover-up, sending a clear signal to all members of the Catholic Church that such violations will never again be tolerated.” , they said.

“Given that these violations, and their cover-up, have been committed for decades in a large number of countries around the world, as well as tens of thousands of alleged victims, we note with great concern the apparent pervasiveness of the pedophilia. cases of abuse and the apparent systematic practice of concealing and obstructing the responsibility of alleged attackers belonging to the Catholic Church. “

In this regard, they recalled the obligation of States, as enshrined in international human rights standards, to ensure justice, truth, reparation and guarantees of non-repetition in response to serious human rights violations.

The letter followed a previous communication sent by the Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children in April 2019, and a press release issued by the same mandate in December 2019 urging the Vatican to intensify measures to end child abuse.


UN experts:
Mr. Fabian Salvioli,Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-repetition ; Ms. Mama Fatima Singhateh,Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children ; Mr. Nils Melzer,Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
; and
Gerard QuinnSpecial Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities

. Special rapporteurs are part of what is called the Special procedures

of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest group of independent experts in the United Nations human rights system, is the general name for the Council’s independent investigative and monitoring mechanisms that deal with either country-specific situations or thematic issues in all regions of the world. Special procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

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