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Holy See

UN Committee Against Torture criticises Holy See over child sexual abuse

Geneva (Switzerland), 23May 2014.

TheUN has condemned the Holy See’s failure to prevent torture or ill-treatmentcommitted by Catholic clergy worldwide, and called for the Holy See to ensure redressfor victims of sexual abuse.

The UN Committee Against Torture hascriticised the Holy See’s failure to prevent, stop, sanction and provideredress for child sexual abuse committed by Catholic Church officials worldwide.The Holy See must “take steps to ensure that victims of sexual abuse committedby or with the acquiescence of the State party’s officials receive redress,including fair, adequate and enforceable right to compensation and as fullrehabilitation as possible, regardless of whether perpetrators of such actshave been brought to justice”, says the Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) in a report of concluding observations, which wasreleased today following the Committee’s review of the State earlier thismonth.

CRIN and OMCT welcome UNCAT’s reporton the Holy See, which almost entirely focuses on child sexual abuse in theCatholic Church. In the report the Committee rejects the Holy See’s claim thatit is not responsible for abuses committed outside the Vatican City State,reminding the Holy See that its obligations under the Convention AgainstTorture (CAT) extend to Holy See officials worldwide, “wherever they exerciseeffective control over persons or territory”.

The Committee highlights the HolySee’s failure to provide specific information on its handling of cases of childsexual abuse, and expresses concern over reports that Holy See officials resistthe principle of mandatory reporting of abuse allegations to civil authoritiesand have declined to provide information to civil authorities. The Committeealso expresses concern over numerous reports of cases in which clergy accusedor convicted of such offences were transferred to other dioceses where theyremained in contact with children and in some cases continued to abusechildren. Furthermore, the Committee expresses deep concern at the inability ofmany victims to obtain redress for abuse perpetrated by or with theacquiescence of Holy See officials.

In a long list of recommendations,the Committee calls on Holy See officials to:

ensure effective monitoring of the conduct of allindividuals under their effective control, and immediately suspend individualssuspected of abuse and prevent their transfer;

report allegations of abuse to civil authorities andcooperate with their investigation and prosecution;

apply meaningful sanctions to those who fail to exercisedue diligence and react properly to such allegations;

establish an independent complaints mechanism forvictims; and

ensure that victims of sexual abuse committed by orwith the acquiescence of Holy See officials receive redress, including fair, adequateand enforceable right to compensation and as full rehabilitation as possible.

During its review by UNCAT, the HolySee delegation indicated that theCongregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had dealt with 3420 credibleallegations of sexual abuse by priests between 2004-2013, resulting in thedefrocking of 848 priests and disciplining of 2572 others. However, the HolySee failed to provide requested data on the number of cases in which itprovided information to civil authorities in the places where the cases aroseand in the places where the priests concerned are currently located.

In its response to the concluding observations, theHoly See rejects UNCAT’s implied assumption that any sexual abuse amounts totorture under CAT as “fundamentally flawed, misleading, and ultimatelycounter-productive”.

Child sexual abuse in the CatholicChurch was included in UNCAT’s review because of the efforts of NGOs, including Child RightsInternational Network (CRIN) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT),who submitted evidence to the UN. In theirjoint submission to the Committee, CRIN and OMCTemphasise that, by acquiescing to rape and other forms of sexual abusecommitted worldwide by Catholic clergy and others operating under the HolySee’s authority, the Holy See has failed its duties to prevent torture andother acts of ill-treatment within its jurisdiction, thereby violating CAT.

UNCAT’s criticism of the Holy Seefollows the State’s historic review earlier this year by another UN human rightsbody, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, where the Holy See wasrebuked for having “consistently placed the preservation of the reputation ofthe Church and the protection of the perpetrators above children’s bestinterests.”

The Holy See’s review by UNCAT waspart of the Committee’s 52nd session, in which Cyprus, Guinea, Lithuania,Montenegro, Sierra Leone, Thailand and Uruguay were also scrutinised for theiradherence to CAT.


UNCAT’s concluding observations on the Holy See.

“Unofficial minutes” taken by CRIN an OMCT ofUNCAT’s review of the Holy See.

Alternative report submitted by OMCT and CRINto UNCAT for the Holy See’s review.

CRIN’s report mapping the global scale of child sexualabuse in the Catholic Church: “Child sexual abuse and the Holy See: the need forjustice, accountability and reform”.

CRIN’s campaign: End sexual violence in religious institutions.

#VaticanAccountability on Twitter.

For further information,please contact:

OMCT, Ms CarolinaBarbara, Child Rights Coordinator, Tel. +41 (0) 22 809 49 39, Email:

CRIN, Ms Veronica Yates,Director, Tel. +44 (0) 20 7401 2257, Email:

Notes to editors

TheWorld Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) is today the main coalition ofNGOs fighting against torture, summary executions, enforced disappearances andall other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. With 311 affiliatedorganisations in its SOS-Torture Network and many tens of thousandscorrespondents in every country, OMCT is the most important network ofnon-governmental organisations working for the protection and the promotion ofhuman rights in the world.

ChildRights International Network (CRIN) is a global research, policy andadvocacy organisation. Our work is grounded in the United Nations Convention onthe Rights of the Child.Our goalisa world where children's rights are recognised, respected and enforced, andwhere every rights violation has a remedy. Our work is based on five corevalues:

- We believe in rights, not charity

- We are stronger when we worktogether

- Information is power and it shouldbe free and accessible

- Societies, organisations andinstitutions should be open, transparent and accountable

- We believe in promoting children'srights, not ourselves.

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