Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, have asked human rights layers to produce a case for charging Pope Benedict XVI with crimes against humanity, specifically over his alleged cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic church. They are planning the legal ambush when the Pope’s Holy Jet [PHJ] touches down in Heathrow, Britain in September, and are planning on using a legal principle that has been used in Britain in 1998, to arrest Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.
The duo’s lawyers, [barrister Geoffrey Robertson and solicitor Mark Stephens] believe the Pope would be unable to claim diplomatic immunity from arrest because, although his tour is categorised as a state visit, he is not the head of a state recognised by the United Nations. The lawyers will ask the Crown Prosecution Service to initiate criminal proceedings against the Pope, launch their own civil action against him or refer his case to the International Criminal Court.
The Vatican recently was attacked with fresh controversy regarding a letter signed by the Pope that emerged recently, arguing that the “good of the universal church” should be considered against the defrocking of an American priest who committed sex offences against two boys. It was dated 1985, when he was in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which deals with sex abuse cases.
This is quite a bold yet impressive move by Hawkins and Hitchens, and they seem to present a valid legal case. Yet even if there is a good possibility of this happening, the Vatican’s legal team would simply tell the Pope to unpack his bags and cancel his flight.
Times columnist Libby Purves said the following in light of recent events;
So let me speak as a Deist and cradle Catholic — albeit long alienated — and say that I rather welcome their campaign. This thing needs airing properly, if the good bits of world Catholicism are to survive. Sometimes, with real sorrow, I fear that they won’t. It is not just because of what bad priests did and bad bishops hid: it is also what they made others do.
If it does go Hawkins and Hitchen’s way, it will be immense. Religurd will be watching closely.
Libby Purves Times Column: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/libby_purves/article7094757.ece
Put the Pope on the dock, Geoffrey Robertson [Guardian UK]: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/libertycentral/2010/apr/02/pope-legal-immunity-international-law
I seem to have jumped the gun too quickly, here’s what Richard Hawkins had said on his website;
Needless to say, I did NOT say “I will arrest Pope Benedict XVI” or anything so personally grandiloquent. You have to remember that The Sunday Times is a Murdoch newspaper, and that all newspapers follow the odd custom of entrusting headlines to a sub-editor, not the author of the article itself.
What I DID say to Marc Horne when he telephoned me out of the blue, and I repeat it here, is that I am whole-heartedly behind the initiative by Geoffrey Robertson and Mark Stephens to mount a legal challenge to the Pope’s proposed visit to Britain. Beyond that, I declined to comment to Marc Horne, other than to refer him to my ‘Ratzinger is the Perfect Pope’ article here: http://richarddawkins.net/articles/5341
Here is what really happened. Christopher Hitchens first proposed the legal challenge idea to me on March 14th. I responded enthusiastically, and suggested the name of a high profile human rights lawyer whom I know. I had lost her address, however, and set about tracking her down. Meanwhile, Christopher made the brilliant suggestion of Geoffrey Robertson. He approached him, and Mr Robertson’s subsequent ‘Put the Pope in the Dock’ article in The Guardian shows him to be ideal:
The case is obviously in good hands, with him and Mark Stephens. I am especially intrigued by the proposed challenge to the legality of the Vatican as a sovereign state whose head can claim diplomatic immunity.
Even if the Pope doesn’t end up in the dock, and even if the Vatican doesn’t cancel the visit, I am optimistic that we shall raise public consciousness to the point where the British government will find it very awkward indeed to go ahead with the Pope’s visit, let alone pay for it.