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Policemen guard the Evry criminal courthouse in France Policemen guard the Evry criminal courthouse in France  (AFP or licensors)

Holy See: 'Crime prevention should not be reduced to mere punishment'

Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican Secretary for Relations with States, urges national governments to combine the rule of law, crime prevention, and criminal justice, rather than merely doling out punishment.

By Lisa Zengarini

The rule of law, crime prevention and criminal justice must go hand in hand, according to the Holy See.

Speaking at the 14th United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (UNODOC), taking place in Kyoto, Japan on 7-12 March 2021, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher pointed out that the implementation of the rule of law “is essential to achieve a true integral human development.”

The Vatican Secretary for Relations with States added that preventing and responding to criminal activities “is closely interrelated with the respect for, and protection of, universal human rights."

Many aspects to criminality

He acknowledged that crime draws its vitality “from economic and social inequalities, as well as from corruption, claiming victims especially among those in vulnerable situations."

The pandemic, he noted, has only made this situation worse.

On the other hand, Archbishop Gallagher pointed out that “crime prevention must not be reduced to its punitive aspects” and that, as emphasized by Pope Francis, “it is essential to go further and do everything possible to reform, improve and educate the person.”

Foundational principles

The Vatican Secretary for Relations with States hence recalled two basic principles that all Criminal law systems should apply.

The first one is the principle of caution “to prevent any encroachment on basic human rights and freedoms.”

The second fundamental rule is the “pro homine” principle, aimed at always protecting the dignity of the human person. “Only by observing these two principles, will it be possible to attain a truly restorative criminal justice,” Archbishop Gallagher concluded.

UN Crime Congress

The 14th United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, which is the most important world meeting of political leaders, professionals, experts and civil society organizations operating in this field, was originally scheduled for April 2020, but was postponed to March this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

It was preceded by a number of preparatory regional meetings in 2019.

The Congress meets every five years with the aim of identifying emerging trends and issues in the field of crime prevention and criminal justice, exchanging experiences and opinions on the relevant legislation and policies.

08 March 2021, 14:45