European court no longer able to rule on crucifixes in Italy
European court no longer able to rule on crucifixes in Italy

.- During meetings last week in Switzerland, 47 countries represented in the Council of Europe adopted a declaration regarding the scope of jurisdiction of the European Human Rights Court in Strasbourg, France. The new policy limits the court's decisions concerning traditions and national culture in member countries, which extends to the prohibition of crucifixes in Italian public institutions.

According to L'Osservatore Romano, the council met for two days in Interlaken, Switzerland to decide on reforms concerning the activities of the European Human Rights Court.

These meetings were held particularly to address the need for speed, efficiency and credibility within the European Human Rights Court, where there is growing concern for the increasing number of backlogged cases.  The Council of Europe calls this situation "desperate," citing more than 100,000 outstanding cases, 90 percent of which are "clearly inadmissible or have no legal basis, and reveal a serious ignorance of the Convention and the Court's procedures."

Discussion during the meetings turned to the topic of crucifixes at the behest of Latvian and Maltese representatives, according to LOR.  Carmelo Mifsu Bonnici, Justice Minister of Malta, proposed that the court "is not sufficiently sensitive" to the "cultural characteristics" of the "national identities" of member states, to which he provided the example of the situation regarding crucifixes in Italy.

The Latvian Minister of the Exterior, Maris Riekstins, declared that the court must work to provide "clear, precise, unambiguous and comprehensible" rulings for everyone, something hesaid did not happen in their decision last fall against crucifixes in schools.

Vatican officials denounced the ruling upon its release in November, saying it was not in the court's hands to rule on a matter of Italian tradition.

On Nov. 3, the court ruled in favor of Soile Lautsi's case to remove religious symbols, including crucifixes, from public schools to ensure her children's right to a secular education.

The new declaration of policy from the Council of Europe "invites" the court "to apply in a uniform and rigorous manner the criteria concerning admissibility and jurisdiction..."

These measures, however, do not immediately overturn November's decision, and an appeal against it, citing the longstanding tradition of the crucifix in public places in Italy, is expected to be processed by March.

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