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Bullet shells next to the car in which 5 indigenous people were killed by assailants in Tacuero, Colombia, 30 Oct. 2019. Bullet shells next to the car in which 5 indigenous people were killed by assailants in Tacuero, Colombia, 30 Oct. 2019.   (ANSA)

Holy See backs future global convention on crimes against humanity

Archbishop Bernadito Auza, the Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations in New York, on 31 October addressed a UN General Assembly meeting on crimes against humanity.

By Robin Gomes

The Holy See is backing the creation of a global convention on crimes against humanity saying that international and domestic instruments are needed to fight the plague. 

Relegate crime against humanity to history

“It is a matter of great concern for us all that the world continues to be scarred by political, religious and ethnic violence,” Archbishop Bernadito Auza said on Thursday. 

“The fear of being beaten, killed, enslaved, raped, exiled, or sold into forms of contemporary slavery due to political, religious and ethnic affiliations remains real and present for many,” he told a General Assembly meeting on crimes against humanity. “Crimes against humanity must be condemned and efforts at all levels aimed at relegating such crimes to the pages of history must be given due priority,” he said. 

Archbishop Auza reminded States of their legal responsibility of all States to prosecute crimes against humanity within their borders and cooperate with each other and relevant intergovernmental organizations, which may require them to extradite wrongdoers, as well as provide assistance to victims. 

A possible International Convention

In this context, the Holy See diplomat welcomed the decision of the International Law Commission (ILC) to recommend to the General Assembly the elaboration of an International Convention on the prevention and punishment of crimes against humanity. 

The Filipino archbishop particularly welcomed ILC’s advocacy of the principle of “non-refoulemet”, by which no person should be returned to a place where he or she may be subjected to crimes against humanity.  On the other hand, he said, refugees and migrants fleeing persecution should be welcomed, protected, helped and integrated. 

However, the Holy See objected to the text of the draft Convention that excludes the definition of “gender” which, it said, is integral to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. 

Opportunity to seek justice and aid to vulnerable states

The Holy See suggested two issues to be kept in mind in drafting a new International Convention on crimes against humanity.

The future Convention, Archbishop Auza said, should provide all people with an opportunity to seek justice and to have their voices heard on an international level, especially those under threat of these crimes. Through increased international collaborative efforts to prevent such crimes, recovery and rescue efforts, and by bringing perpetrators to justice, he said, the threats of crimes against humanity can be eliminated.

Secondly, the Convention must provide for the need to assist States with fragile or weak judicial and security systems, in particular as regards protecting racial, ethnic or religious minorities living within their borders. Without effective domestic institutions, Archbishop Auza said, the prevention and prompt cessation of crimes against humanity when they happen would be next to impossible.

In conclusion, the encouraged the international community to take timely action to prevent violence and stop atrocities at their onset.

02 November 2019, 14:46