Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, Holy See Permanent Observer to the UN Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, Holy See Permanent Observer to the UN 

Holy See advocates laws inspired by commonly shared values

The Holy See hails efforts taken to advance the development of international law and calls for the prioritization of the humanitarian needs of victims of armed conflict.

By Vatican News staff writer

Speaking at the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Archbishop Gabriele Caccia stated the Holy See’s support for the extensive work undertaken to advance the “progressive development of international law and its codification.”

The Permanent Observer to the UN noted that the Holy See was an early supporter of the concept of “ius cogens”, backing it in 1968 at the UN Conference on the Law of Treaties, as it could serve to “transpose into positive law some of the universal dictates from Natural Law.”

Also, Archbishop Caccia added, there is an urgent need to develop rules of interpretation to assist states in “delineating the specific content of the peremptory norms of International Law”, even without enumerating them one by one.

Ius cogens

While highlighting the International Law Commission’s efforts to develop some guidance on proper methodology for identifying peremptory norms of international law and for determining their legal consequences, Archbishop Caccia noted that some of the Commission’s conclusions are, in essence, secondary norms of international law and they do not provide guidance on the specific content of the ius cogens norms.

He stressed that ius cogens reflects an international community founded on common values, and an international public order based on moral values shared by all in light of our common human nature. Thus, transposing these high aspirations into positive law, while relying on the positivist methodology that characterizes the modern science of public international law, “presents an intrinsic contradiction.”

In this regard, he questioned some conclusions from the Commission’s report, and, called for further consideration of some other aspects, warning that such an approach may give rise to abuses.

Archbishop Caccia insisted that the concept of ius cogens is only useful insofar as it is reserved to those essential principles and rules that are truly shared among all states, because if the concept was instead to be deployed as an instrument of political argumentation to ostracize opposing views, it would lose its value.

Prioritizing humanitarian needs of displaced persons

The head of the Holy See Permanent Observer mission went on to acknowledge the ILC’s work as regards the protection of the environment in relation to armed conflict, noting that it has brought to light the fact that current International Humanitarian Law addresses only marginally the question of the protection of the environment during armed conflict.

He also stressed that the urgent humanitarian needs of civilians, displaced persons and those not taking an active part in the hostilities, including combatants hors de combat, must take precedence over the “diffuse interest of protecting the environment.”

In this regard, he said that the formulation of some draft principles should give greater emphasis to the humanitarian, humanistic aspects of the Laws of War, because though refugees and displaced persons may cause environmental stress to the areas they are located or the places they transit, environmental considerations “should not prevent, discourage or delay in any way the provision of relief and emergency assistance to those persons in need.”

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28 October 2022, 14:38