In defense of the human person
· The Holy See presents report to the Committee on the Convention against torture ·
The Holy See considers the Convention against torture a valid instrument in fighting acts which constitute a serious offense against humanity. Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, Permanent Observer to the United Nations and Specialized Organizations in Geneva, underlined this in his presentation of the Initial Periodic Report of the Holy See to the Committee on the Convention against torture on Monday, 5 May. The following is the integral text of the Archbishop's report.
Mr. Chairperson, Members of the Committee,
Allow me, first of all, to extend cordial greetings to all the members of the Committee on the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. In the presentation of the Initial Report of the Holy See, I wish to introduce the members of our Delegation present for this interactive dialogue. With me this morning are Monsignor Christophe El-Kassis and Professor Vincenzo Buonomo, of the Secretariat of State of the Holy See, and Monsignor Richard Gyhra, Secretary of the Holy See Mission.
The Holy See acceded to the
Convention against Torture (CAT) on June 22, 2002. It did so with the very clear and direct
intention that this Convention applied to Vatican City State (VCS). In its capacity as the sovereign of
For the Holy See, the Interpretative Declaration provides a necessary hermeneutic to understand the motives for acceding to the Convention and also for considering the implementation of the Convention by the legal order of Vatican City State which is the very exercise we are engaging in at this moment in the consideration of the Initial Report of the Holy See to the CAT.
In this sense, my Delegation deems it worthwhile to reiterate several of the more salient points of the Interpretative Declaration so as to properly frame the consideration and discussions of the Initial Report of the Holy See.
In the first place, the Interpretative Declaration lauds the Convention as a worthy instrument for the defense against acts of torture when it says: “The Holy See considers the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment a valid and suitable instrument for fighting against acts that constitute a serious offence against the dignity of the human person.” In this sense indeed, the Holy See wished to express the harmony of its own principles and vision of the human person with those ideals and practices set forth in the Convention against Torture.
Second, the Declaration elaborates more precisely the Holy See’s position, in which the teaching of the Catholic Church clearly articulates its opposition to acts of violence and torture.
Third, although the Convention applies to Vatican City State, the Holy See adds a crucial moral voice in its support through its teaching and through the following statement: “In this spirit the Holy See wishes to lend its moral support and collaboration to the international community, so as to contribute to the elimination of recourse to torture, which is inadmissible and inhuman.”
Finally, and not of least
importance, the Interpretative Declaration insists that “The Holy See, in
becoming a party to the Convention on behalf of the Vatican City State,
undertakes to apply it insofar as it is compatible, in practice, with the
peculiar nature of that State.” As such, in regard to the application of the
Convention and any examination, questions or criticisms, or implementation
thereof, the Holy See intends to focus exclusively on
The Holy See, as member of the
international Community, is related but separate and distinct from the
Having presented some of the essential points that should guide and assist our discussion, I now wish to give an overview of the Holy See’s Initial Report.
The Initial Report of the Holy See, submitted to this Committee in December 2012, is divided into four parts: 1) Introduction, 2) General Information, 3) The Convention against Torture, and 4) Affirmation of the prohibition against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in the teachings and activities of the Holy See. Since much of the content of the Introduction has been already mentioned, as this provides a necessary guide to understanding the approach and perspective of the Holy See regarding the Convention, I shall proceed to the second part on “General Information”.
Apart from presenting the essential
distinctions and relations between the Holy See,
As noted in the section on
Statistics, the small population of
Turning now to the third part of the
Initial Report, which addresses systematically each of the sixteen substantive
articles of the CAT, my Delegation wishes to highlight several significant
steps and improvements in
Also modified in July 2013, the
amendments of Law IX address with greater specificity and clarity the questions
of crimes, whether within or outside the territory of the State, of
jurisdiction, of extradition, and of  The procedural and legislative changes seek
to implement the principles
contained in the Convention against Torture under articles 3, 5, and
To summarize, the third part of the
Holy See Report must be viewed through the updates offered by the recent
modifications to the procedures and legislation of
The fourth part of the Initial Report, regarding the “Affirmation of the prohibition against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in the teachings and activities of the Holy See”, references the wide-array of documents, proclamations, publications, radio and television programs by which the Holy See actively addresses not only followers of the Catholic Faith, but also the international Community and all people of good will.
In this way, the moral voice of the Holy See, while promoting and
defending all authentic human rights, reaches the members of the Catholic
Church in an attempt to foster an interior conversion of hearts to love God and
one’s neighbor. This love, in turn,
should overflow into good practices at the local level in accordance with the
laws of States.It should be stressed,
particularly in light of much confusion, that the Holy See has no jurisdiction
- as that term is understood also under article 2.1 of the Convention - over
every member of the Catholic Church. The Holy See wishes to reiterate that the
persons who live in a particular country are under the jurisdiction of the
legitimate authorities of that country and are thus subject to the domestic law
and the consequences contained therein.
State authorities are obligated to protect, and when necessary,
prosecute persons under their jurisdiction.
The Holy See exercises the same authority upon those who live in
To recapitulate this fourth part of the Report, it might be said that the measures employed by the Holy See to take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent and to prohibit torture and to address its root causes to avoid future acts in this area are abundant. This manifests the Holy See’s desire “to lend its moral support and collaboration to the international Community, so as to contribute to the elimination of recourse to torture, which is inadmissible and inhuman.”
In line with above considerations, the Holy See assures this Committee of its continued implementation and promotion of the Convention against Torture. An analysis of the Concluding Observations offered in the reviews of other Member States suggests that an evolution in the interpretation of this document may raise some questions on the part of the States Parties. As Party to the CAT, the Holy See wishes, that in the application of the Convention to all appropriate new situations, all should remain within its specific area of concern that the CAT outlines.
My Delegation believes that the Holy
See has fulfilled in good faith the obligations assumed under CAT, since it has
integrated its values and principles into the legislation of
1.In this sense, the Holy See acted in accord with the provisions of international law of treaties, in full compliance of those norms, as accepted by the other contracting Parties.
2.Already in 1953, Pope Pius XII gave a clear condemnation of torture saying: “Preliminary juridical proceeding must exclude physical and psychological torture and the use of drugs; first of all because they violate a natural right, even if the accused is indeed guilty, and secondly because all too often they give rise to erroneous results.” (Address to the Sixth International Congress on Criminal Law, 3 October 1953.) “In recent times the Catholic Church has consistently pronounced itself in favor of unconditional respect for life itself and unequivocally condemned “whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself”. (Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, n. 27. Cfr. John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, n. 80 and Evangelium Vitae, n. 3). The Declaration also refers to the Code of Canon Law (1983), cc. 1397-1398, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1995), nns. 2297-2298, which “enumerate and clearly identify forms of behavior that can harm the bodily or mental integrity of the individual, condemn their perpetrators and call for the abolition of such acts.” Following, and building upon, the teaching found these fundamental documents of the Holy See, one should include the articulation found in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church, published in 2004, which in treating the question of criminal interrogation states: “the regulation against the use of torture, even in the case of serious crimes, must be strictly observed: ‘Christ's disciple refuses every recourse to such methods, which nothing could justify and in which the dignity of man is as much debased in his torturer as in the torturer's victim.’ International juridical instruments concerning human rights correctly indicate a prohibition against torture as a principle which cannot be contravened under any circumstances” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church, n. 404).
Interpretative Declaration provides evidence of this unique contribution by
offering examples from papal addresses and publications. On 14 January 1978,
Pope Paul VI, in his last address to the diplomatic corps, after referring to
the torture and mistreatment practised in various countries against
individuals, concluded as follows: “How could the Church fail to take up a
stern stand ... with regard to torture and to similar acts of violence
inflicted on the human person?” Pope John Paul II, for his part, did not fail
to affirm that “torture must be called by its proper name” (Cfr. Pope John Paul
II. Message for the Celebration of the
World Day of Peace, 1 January 1980). He also expressed his deep compassion
for the victims of torture and in particular for tortured women, (see
respectively, Pope John Paul II. World
Congress on Pastoral Ministry for Human Rights,
6.Holy See, Initial Report, nn. 4-6
7.Holy See, Supplementary Norms: Law VIII, Chapter I, Crimes Against the Person, Art. 3: Torture. Full text follows:
1. The public official having judicial, judicial police or law enforcement functions, as well as whoever performs in an official capacity a similar or analogous role, and whoever, under their instigation or with their consent or acquiescence, inflicts severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, to a person in order to obtain from him or a third person some information or a confession, or to punishing him for an act that he or a third person has committed, or is suspected of having committed, or to intimidate or coerce him or a third person, or for any other reason based on any kind discrimination, is punished with five to ten years imprisonment.
2. The penalty is increased by one-half if the offence results in serious injury or if it is committed against a minor. The penalty is doubled if the offence results in an injury of the utmost gravity.
3. If, as an unintended consequence of the offence, the victim dies, the penalty shall be of no less than fifteen years imprisonment.
4. The offence does not exist when the pain or suffering arises from, is inherent to, or is caused by legitimate measures or sanctions.
5. The offence is not justified by an order from a superior officer or a public authority, nor by a state of war or a threat of war, nor by internal political instability or any other exceptional circumstances.
6. No statement made under torture may be invoked or used as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture, in order to prove that such a statement was made.
8.Holy See, Law IX: Amendments to the Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure. Of particular relevance vis-à-vis the CAT are articles 1-7 and 32-46.
9.Cfr., Ibid., Chapter I, Article 6 on “Extradition”.
10.In particular, the Holy See exercising its voice as a moral authority to the community of believers freely integrated into, and following, Catholic doctrinal and moral teaching, promotes the integral formation of the human person based on an accurate understanding of human dignity. This formation, while guided by Catholic principles, is primarily rooted in the education of the faithful, especially the young, which then also permeates all of society through the dedicated efforts of Catholic inspired institutions, found throughout the world, as they fulfill their mission in the variety of fields from education, health care, penitentiaries, refugee camps, among others.
11.Holy See. Interpretative Declaration.
12.The caveat of the Holy See is twofold. First, for the sake of defending the competency, integrity and duty of the Committee to oversee the implementation of the Convention against Torture, it seems fair and prudent that the focus should remain upon the contents of the Convention. Second, the introduction of other themes, of which the Convention does not speak, effectively diminishes the original focus of the Convention and thus further jeopardizes the situations for those who are truly being abused, tortured and punished. As such the purpose of the Convention, as it is being unfolded in the work of the Committee, runs the risk of not only being ineffective, but even counterproductive, with regard to its original, noble, intention.
St. Peter’s Square
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