.- Campaigners demanding that the International Criminal Court prosecute Pope Benedict XVI over clerical sex abuse are being accused of undermining human rights by a leading expert on religion and the law.
âItâs simply a publicity stunt,â said U.K.-based attorney Neil Addison in a Sept. 21 interview with CNA. He added, âwhat these groups are alleging - even at its very worst - does not fall within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.â
The bid to bring Pope Benedict before the International Criminal Court was launched last week by the American organization Survivors Network of those Abused by Priest (SNAP) and the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights. The groups alleged that the Pope had âdirect and superior responsibility for the crimes against humanity of rape and other sexual violence committed around the world.â
On Sept. 20 the campaigners held a press conference in Rome asking for any Vatican employees with evidence against Pope Benedict â and three other senior Vatican officials - to come forward.
âIâd probably get sued if I answered that,â Addison said when he was asked what he thinks of the conduct of such lawyers.
But even though he calls the move by SNAP a publicity stunt, Addison maintains it is far from harmless. âI think it damages the idea of crimes against humanities because it demeans it.â
Addison 34-year career as an attorney has earned him the reputation of being an expert on all matters regarding religion and the law. He was a Senior Crown Prosecutor for eight of those years. An academic as well as a practicing lawyer, Addison recently published a legal textbook on âReligious Discrimination and Hatred Law.â He also edits the website www.religionlaw.co.uk.
He explained that the International Criminal Court exists to prosecute âcrimes against humanityâ and for that âyou have to have had an attack upon a civilian population. And the Swiss Guard has not invaded anywhere. So it doesnât fit within the criteria.â
He also noted that the Court only has jurisdiction for actions from 2001 onwards and that, as far as he was aware, SNAP does not identify any particular incidents beyond that date. âAll the Irish reports, for example, relate to incidents prior to 2001 â even the recent Cloyne Report,â he pointed out.
âThe problem is that theyâve had apologies, theyâve had damages, and Iâm now not sure what more they want. I donât think they do either,â Addison said.
Even âthe Pope being in a prison cellâ would probably fail to satisfy the campaign groups, he suggested.