The ECHR invoked in particular “the immunity” of the Holy See recognized by the “principles of international law”. The court, which is expressing itself for the first time on this issue, ruled in favor of the Belgian courts.
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The news is surprising in France a week after the publication of the Sauvé report. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Tuesday, October 12, dismissed 24 plaintiffs who had unsuccessfully sued the Vatican before the Belgian courts for acts of pedophilia committed by Catholic priests.
The ECHR invoked in particular “immunity” of the Holy See recognized by “principles of international law”. The applicants, of Belgian, French and Dutch nationality, had already been dismissed by the Belgian courts, which had invoked the immunity from jurisdiction of the Holy See. The ECHR, which is speaking for the first time on this issue, has ruled in favor of the Belgian courts. “The Court considers that the rejection (…) did not depart from the generally recognized principles of international law in matters of State immunity” and which apply to the Vatican, she noted in a statement.
The court, which sits in Strasbourg, concluded that there had been no violation of the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights on the “right of access to a court” invoked by the applicants, who claimed to have been prevented from doing so. to assert in civil their grievances against the Vatican.
They had brought in 2011 in Belgium a civil collective action for compensation against the Vatican, leaders of the Catholic Church of Belgium and Catholic associations, recalls the Court in its press release. They demanded reparation because “of the damage caused by the structurally deficient way in which the Church would have dealt with the problem of sexual abuse within it”, according to the same source.
The Vatican “has characteristics comparable to those of a State”, still fall under the European judges. They believe that Belgian justice was therefore entitled to “deduce from these characteristics that the Holy See was a foreign sovereign, with the same rights and obligations as a State”. “The total failure of the applicants’ action results in reality” bad “procedural choices” that they “did not change” during the procedure “to clarify and individualize the facts in support of their actions”, concludes the Court.