Holy See: ‘Human dignity should be at the core of crime policies'
By Lisa Zengarini
“The dignity of the human person should necessarily be placed at the core of any policy and intervention that aims at preventing or prosecuting crimes”. Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, made this point on Monday as he addressed the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly in New York discussing a number of items related to the 2021 UN Kyoto Declaration on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, and human rights issues.
In his remarks, the Vatican representative focused on two areas of particular concern for the Holy See: crimes that affect the environment and illicit drug-related activities. Regarding the first point, Archbishop Caccia noted that, although they are not always given due attention by law enforcement authorities, and are often “perceived as victimless”, environmental crimes “cause enormous harm and exacerbate existing crises”. He therefore insisted on the need to “work together at all levels to care for our common home”, as repeatedly called for by Pope Francis.
Speaking about drug-related activities, the Vatican Observer reaffirmed the Holy See’s stance against legalizing the consumption, as well as the production, manufacture, trafficking of any narcotic drug and psychotropic substance, in light of the “serious threat” they pose to individuals, families, and communities.
According to the Holy See, the focus of society and law enforcement should therefore be on “identifying trafficking networks and prosecuting major criminals”, while also “preventing drug use, with the aim of reducing drug production and consumption, no matter the stigma that might be associated with these efforts”.
Prevention of drug abuse
Prevention, he said, can be done through adequate and quality education, both within the family and at school, and by providing scientific information on how drugs affect the brain, body, and behavior, having a detrimental impact on the person, as well as on those close to him or her.
Archbishop Caccia also pointed out that “effective anti-drug policies should always include compassionate support for those struggling with addiction”.
Countering the use of ICTs for criminal purposes
Another item discussed on Monday by the UN Committee was that of the fight against the use of information and communications technologies (ICTs) for criminal purposes.
In another statement on this issue, Archbishop Caccia noted that while the rapid development of ICTs has brought significant benefits, contributing to economic, cultural, and social development, their designing and use also comes with significant “ethical implications”, most notably the use of ICTs for exploitation and abuse, and their criminal use by terrorist groups in their radicalization efforts, recruitment, fundraising, training, tactics, communication, and cyber-attacks. Regarding the first point, he called particular attention to the production, distribution, and consumption of child pornography and other forms of child sexual abuse material.
Legislation aimed at regulating use of ICTs should respect human rights
Archbishop Caccia therefore expressed the the Vatican Delegation’s support for the elaboration of a comprehensive international convention on countering the use of ITCs for criminal purposes to reverse these negative trends and make sure they “contribute to the betterment of the human person and the human family”.
At the same time the Holy See maintains that “any legislation aimed at regulating the design and use of ICTs should respect human dignity and universal human rights, including the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion”.