giovedì 26 marzo 2015

28th Session of the Human Rights Council on the Ukraine

Statement by His Excellency Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi
Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and
Other International Organizations in Geneva
at the 28th Session of the Human Rights Council on the Ukraine
Geneva, 26 March 2015
          With reference to the Statement made by this Permanent Mission at the 25th Session of the Human Rights Council on March 26, 2014, the Holy See reiterates its closeness and solidarity to all the people of Ukraine, whose country continues to be affected by the present conflict.
           With this intervention, the Holy See intends to stress once again the urgent need to respect international legality regarding Ukraine’s territory and borders, as a key element for ensuring stability at both the national and the regional level, and to re-establish law and order based on full respect for all fundamental human rights.
          In this regard, the Holy See welcomes the steps taken to enforce the ceasefire, which is intended as an essential condition to arrive at political solutions exclusively through dialogue and negotiation. At the same time, it emphasizes the crucial need for all parties to implement the decisions taken by common agreement, acknowledging in this context the efforts made by the UN, the OSCE and other relevant organizations with reference to the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements. 
          The Holy See holds that the full adherence of all parties to the provisions of said Agreements is a prerequisite for all further efforts to improve the humanitarian and human rights situation in the affected territories, by, first of all, bringing an end to the loss of human life, acts of violence and other forms of abuse. It should also include the release of all hostages and illegally held persons and ensure unfettered access by all legitimate actors to provide humanitarian assistance in those areas.

          At the same time the Holy See is concerned about the social emergency facing the population living in the areas affected, who suffer from poverty, hunger, insecurity and health risks. It is also concerned about injured and displaced persons and families suffering from the loss of loved ones. In this urgent situation, the Holy See is committed to offering its assistance through its institutions and requests the charitable organisations of the Catholic Church to intensify and coordinate their efforts to provide assistance to the people of Ukraine. The Holy See also wishes to express its confidence in the solidarity of the international community.

venerdì 20 marzo 2015

Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic

Statement by His Excellency Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi
Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva
at the 28th Session of the Human Rights Council
Item 4 - Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic
Geneva, 17 March 2015

Mr. President,
Conflicts forced a staggering 5.5 million people to flee their homes in the first six months of 2014. This represents a major addition to the record of 51.2 million worldwide who already were forcibly displaced by the end of 2013.[1] The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic recently informed that, since the start of the crisis, “more than 10 million Syrians have fled their homes. This amounts to almost half of the country’s population, now deprived of their basic rights to shelter and adequate housing, security and human dignity. Many are victims of human rights violations and abuses and are in urgent need of protective measures and support.” To compound this tragedy, more than 3 million people, most of them women and children, have fled the Syrian Arab Republic and are refugees in neighboring countries.[2]  Violence continues to produce victims in the Middle East in particular, but elsewhere as well, where hatred and intolerance are the criteria for inter-group relations.  The human rights of these forcibly displaced people are systematically violated with impunity. A variety of sources have provided evidence on how children suffer the brutal consequences of a persistent status of war in their country. Children are recruited, trained and used in active combat roles, at times even as human shields in military attacks. The so-called Islamic State (ISIL) group has worsened the situation by training and using children as suicide bombers; killing children who belong to different religious and ethnic communities; selling children as slaves in markets; executing large numbers of boys; and committing other atrocities.[3] In camps throughout the Middle East, children constitute approximately half of the refugee population and they are the most vulnerable demographic group in times of conflict and displacement. Their life in exile is full of uncertainty and daily struggles. “Many are separated from their families, have difficulties accessing basic services, and live in increasing poverty. Only one in two Syrian refugee children in the neighboring countries is receiving education.”[4] Beyond the specific conditions faced by internally displaced children and those in the refugee camps of the region and beyond the enormous tragedies affecting them, it seems important to envision their future, by focusing on three particular areas of concern.
First, the world must deal with the situation of millions of stateless children, who as such according to the law, were never born. The United Nations estimates that approximately 30.000 of these children can be found in Lebanon alone. Moreover, due to the Middle Eastern conflicts and massive uprooting of families, several thousand unregistered children are scattered in camps and other asylum countries.[5] These are “phantom kids” whose parents have escaped from Syria but whose name and date of birth were never registered at any office. In fact, UNICEF reports that 3.500 children “officially” do not have a family or an identity. This occurs because all personal documents have been destroyed under the rubble of war or, at times, simply because their parents did not have the time or the money to certify their birth. Stateless children cross international borders alone and find themselves completely abandoned. The number of stateless persons in the world reaches 10 million. While all face grave difficulties, those fleeing Syria face challenges that are even more dramatic: a child below eleven years of age and without documents has no access even to the most basic services. These children obviously cannot go to school and they are likely to be adopted illegally, recruited in an armed group, abused, exploited, or forced into prostitution. Every child has the right to be registered at birth and thus to be recognized as a person before the law. The implementation of this right opens the way for access to the enjoyment of other rights and benefits that affect the future of these children. Simplifying mechanisms and requirements for registration, waving fees, advocating for refugee inclusive registration legislation, represent steps to solve the plight of stateless children.
Second, another key component that shapes the future of uprooted children is education. Both in Syria and in refugee camps in the region, provision of education has become extremely problematic. Some 5,000 schools have been destroyed in Syria[6] where more than one million and half students no longer receive an education and where attacks against school buildings continue. The extremists from ISIL already have closed a great number of schools in the zones under their control. The dangerous condition of the country does not permit children to attend school nor to have access to a proper education. The international community as a whole seems to have misjudged the extent of the Syrian crisis. It was thought by many that the Syrian refugee flow was temporary and such refugees would leave their countries of asylum in a matter of months. Now, after four years of conflict, it appears likely that these refugees will remain and the locals have to learn to live side by side with them. As a result of the conflict, children are behind in their education and are missing the enjoyment of their childhood. In the camps, there are only 40 teachers for more than 1.000 students, aged 6 to 17. Most of the teachers are volunteers, and often refugees themselves. Classes focus on drawing and music to help ease the trauma; writing and mathematics are taught when books are available. In Turkey, children face additional problems because of the language barrier. These refugees speak Arabic or Kurdish so, they cannot attend public schools where only Turkish is spoken. For different reasons, whether in their home countries or in the refugee camps, children find an inadequate education system that jeopardizes their future. Everywhere there is an urgent need for an education system that could absorb these children and bring some normalcy to their lives.
Third, another disruptive consequence of the continuing violence that torments the Middle East is the separation of family members, which forces many minors to fend for themselves. The root of the destabilization of society is the generalized violence that leads to the breaking down of the family, society’s basic social unit. To prevent the further exploitation of children and to protect them properly, an additional effort should be made to facilitate the reunification of minors with their respective families.
Mr. President,
The right to a legal identity, to an adequate education and to a family are key elements and specific requirements in a comprehensive system of protection for children. Such measures require the close collaboration of all stakeholders. Access to quality education and psycho-social care, together with other basic services, is extremely important. However, children cannot benefit from such services unless they are registered at birth and their families and communities are supported to protect them better. If the violence does not stop and the normal pace of education and development  is not resumed, these children are at risk of becoming a lost generation.
Peace in Syria and the Middle East is the priority for healthy growth of all children. With conviction, during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Pope Francis stated: “May the violence cease and may humanitarian law be respected, thus ensuring much needed assistance to those who are suffering! May all parties abandon the attempt to resolve issues by the use of arms and return to negotiations. A solution will only be found through dialogue and restraint, through compassion for those who suffer, through the search for a political solution and through a sense of fraternal responsibility.”[7]
Thank you, Mr. President.

[1] UNHCR, Mid-Year Trends 2014, pg. 3.
[2] Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, Human Rights Council (Twenty-seventh session). 5 February 2015.
[3] UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding observations on the combined second to fourth periodic reports of Iraq, pg. 5, point 23 (a), 4 February 2015, Geneva.
[4] A. Guterres speech at the opening session of the "Investing in the Future" conference in Sharjah, 15th October 2014.
[5] UNICEF Monthly humanitarian situation report, Syria Crisis, 14 Oct – 12 Nov 2014.

[6] Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, Human Rights Council (Twenty-seventh session). 5 February 2015.
[7] Address of His Holiness Pope Francis to the Meeting with refugees and disabled young people, Latin Church, Bethany beyond the Jordan, Saturday, 24 May 2014.

venerdì 13 marzo 2015

Supporting the Human Rights of Christians and Other Communities, particularly in the Middle East

Press Statement from the
Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and
Other International Organizations in Geneva
13 March 2015
As an act of solidarity with those Christians and persons from other communities suffering from grave and continuous violations of their human rights, a core group composed of the Russian Federation, Holy See and Lebanon, has formulated a Joint Statement entitled “Supporting the Human Rights of Christians and other Communities, particularly in the Middle East.” While highlighting the perilous situation that Christians face in that region, the statement clearly recognizes the abuses that are suffered by persons from any religious, ethnic and cultural background simply because they want to exercise their freedom of religion and belief without being persecuted or killed.
The declaration has been formally accepted and signed by a wide number of States which manifests a positive political will to support human rights and to move toward an elimination of these violations.
The statement will be presented on Friday, March 13, during the assembly of the 28th Session of the Human Rights Council in the Palais des Nations, Geneva.

Joint Statement
Supporting the Human Rights of Christians and Other Communities,
particularly in the Middle East
28th Session of the Human Rights Council Geneva, 13 March 2015 Sponsors: Russian Federation, Lebanon and the Holy See.
The Middle East is living in a situation of instability and conflict that recently have been aggravated. The consequences are disastrous for the entire population of the region. The existence of many religious communities is seriously threatened. Christians are now especially affected. These days even their survival is in question.
Efforts to build a better future for all are frustrated. We witness a situation where violence, religious and ethnic hatred, fundamentalist radicalism, extremism, intolerance, exclusion, destruction of the social fabric of whole societies and communities are becoming the features of a non-viable political and social model, endangering the very existence of many communities, the Christian community in particular.
Millions of people have been either displaced or forced to leave their ancestral lands. Those who stay in conflict zones or areas controlled by terrorist groups live under the permanent threat of human rights violations, repression and abuses. Both communities and individuals fall victim to barbaric acts of violence: they are deprived of homes, driven from their native lands, sold into slavery, killed, beheaded and burnt alive. Dozens of Christian churches, and ancient shrines of all religions have been destroyed. The situation of Christians in the Middle East, a land on which they are living for centuries and have the right to remain, raises deep concerns. There are more and more reasons to fear seriously for the future of the Christian communities that have more than two thousand years of existence in this region, where Christianity has its full place, and began its long history. The positive contributions of Christians in the different countries and societies of the Middle East are well known and creative.
We are confident that Governments, all civic and religious leaders in the Middle East, will join us in addressing this alarming situation by building together a culture of peaceful coexistence. In our globalized world, pluralism is an enrichment. The presence and the contributions of ethnic and religious communities reflect an ancient diversity and a common heritage. A future without the different communities in the Middle East will run a high risk of new forms of violence, exclusion, and the absence of peace and development.
We call upon the international community to support the deeply rooted historical presence of all ethnic and religious communities in the Middle East. Here world religions appeared, including Christianity. Now, they live a serious existential threat from the so-called “Islamic State” (Daesh) and Alqaida, and affiliated terrorist groups, which disrupts the life of all these communities, and creates the risk of complete disappearance for the Christians. This support will help the countries of the region to rebuild healthy plural societies and sound political systems, ensuring human rights and fundamental freedoms for all. Therefore we ask all States to reaffirm their commitment to respect the rights of everyone, in particular the right to freedom of religion, which is enshrined in the fundamental international human rights instruments.

Joint Statement on
“Supporting the Human Rights of Christians and other Communities,

particularly in the Middle East”

Russian Federation, Lebanon, Holy See, Andorra, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Congo, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Denmark, El Salvador, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxemburg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, Sovereign Military Order of Malta, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States of America

mercoledì 11 marzo 2015

Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief

Statement by His Excellency Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi
Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations
and Other International Organizations in Geneva
at the 28th Session of the Human Rights Council
Item 3 – Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief

Geneva, 10 March 2015

Mr. President,
            The International Community is now confronted with a delicate, complex and urgent challenge with regard to respect for religious sensibilities and the need for peaceful coexistence in an ever more pluralistic world: namely, that of establishing a fair relationship between freedom of expression and freedom of religion. The relationship between these fundamental human rights has proven difficult to manage and to address on either a normative or institutional level. On the other hand, it should be recognized “that the open, constructive and respectful debate of ideas, as well as interfaith and intercultural dialogue at the local, national and international levels, can play a positive role in combating religious hatred, incitement and violence.”[1] Failure in this effort is evident when excessive and irresponsible use of freedom of expression result in intimidation, threats and verbal abuse and these infringe upon freedom of religion and can sadly lead to intolerance and violence. Likewise, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion has focused on the violence committed “in the name of religion”,[2] and on its root causes.
            Unfortunately, violence abounds today. If genocide means any act committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such,[3] then the International Community as a whole is certainly witnessing a sort of genocide in some regions of the world, where the enslavement and sale of women and children, the killing of young men, the burning, beheading and the forcing into exile of people continue. In this context, the Delegation of the Holy See would like to submit to the joint reflection of the Human Rights Council that these and other unspeakable crimes are being committed against people belonging to ancient communities simply because their belief, social system and culture are different from the fundamentalist combatants of the so-called “Islamic State” group. The appeal to religion in order to murder people and destroy the evidence of human creativity developed in the course of history makes the on-going atrocities even more revulsive and damnable. An adequate response from the International Community, that should finally put aside sectoral interests and save lives, is a moral imperative.
            Violence, however, does not stem from religion but from its false interpretation or its transformation into ideology. In addition, the same violence can derive from the idolatry of State or of the economy, and it can be an effect of secularization. All these phenomena tend to eliminate individual freedom and responsibility towards others. But, violence is always an individual’s act and a decision that implies personal responsibility. It is in fact by adopting an ethics of responsibility that the way toward the future can become fruitful, prevent violence and break the impasse between extreme positions, one which upholds any form of freedom of expression and the other which rejects any criticism of a religion. The risk of a double standard in the protection of human rights is never too far away. Some limits to freedom of expression are selectively imposed by law and accepted; meanwhile, systematic, provocative and verbally violent attacks on religion which hurt the personal identity of believers are endorsed.[4] Freedom of expression that is misused to wound the dignity of persons by offending their deepest convictions sows the seeds of violence. Of course, freedom of expression is a fundamental human right which is always to be upheld and protected; in fact, it also implies the obligation to say in a responsible way what a person thinks in view of the common good. Without this right, education, democracy, authentic spirituality would not be possible. It does not, however, justify relegating religion to a subculture of insignificant weight or to an acceptable easy target of ridicule and discrimination. Antireligious arguments even in the form of irony can surely be accepted, as it is acceptable to use irony about secularism or atheism. Criticism of religious thinking can even help dismantle various extremisms. But what can justify gratuitous insults and spiteful derision of the religious feelings and convictions of others who are, after all, equal in dignity? Can we make fun of the cultural identity of a person, of the colour of his skin, of the belief of his heart? A “right to offend” does not exist. Criticism can produce good results if it takes into account that persons are more important than their convictions or their belief and that they have, simply because they are human beings, an innate right to be respected.
            The lack of an ethics of responsibility and fairness leads to the radicalization of positions when instead dialogue and mutual understanding are necessary to break the vicious circle of violence. The Constitution of the UNESCO reminds us that “since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.”[5]
            Several mutually interdependent issues like freedom of religion, freedom of expression, religious intolerance, violence in the name of religion, come together in the concrete situations the world faces today. The way forward seems to be the adoption of a comprehensive approach that would consider these issues together in domestic legislation and deal with them in such a way that they may facilitate a peaceful coexistence based on the respect of the inherent human dignity and rights of every person. While opting to be on the side of freedom, the consequences of its exercise cannot be ignored and they should respect this dignity and, thus, build a more humane and more brotherly global society.
Thank you, Mr. President.

[1] Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18 on “Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of, and discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against, persons based on religion or belief,” par. 5 (h), pag. 3.
[2] Cfr., doc. A/HRC/28/66 par.3-82 pag, 3-18.
[3] Cfr., Articles II and III of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide.
[4] Cf. U.N. Doc. A/HRC/25/34, para.127.
[5] Constitution of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 1945. Preamble.

lunedì 9 marzo 2015

Human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment

Statement by His Excellency Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi
Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and
Other International Organizations in Geneva
at the 28th Session of the Human Rights Council – Item 3 – Human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment

Geneva, 9 March 2015

Mr. President,

            As the Holy See stated during the UN Climate Summit, the enjoyment of a sustainable environment is an issue of justice, respect and equity. Environmental degradation can and does adversely affect the “enjoyment of a broad range of human rights.”[1] The Human Rights Council itself has stated, “environmental damage can have negative implications, both direct and indirect, for the effective enjoyment of human rights.”[2] These situations must be approached from the perspective of the principle common and distributive justice. Contributive justice in the sense that all shall contribute according to their financial and technological possibilities; distributive justice, in order to provide to each country the know-how as well as the possibility to develop, to produce goods and to deliver services. Reparative justice implies that those who have benefited more from the use of natural resources, and having thus damaged the environment more, have a special duty to work for its restoration and care.

Human rights obligations and commitments have the potential to inform and strengthen international, regional and national policymaking in the area of environmental protection and urges States “to take human rights into consideration when developing their environmental policies” (resolution 16/11). This Council, as well as the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, has stated that States should, in all climate change-related actions, fully respect human rights[3].
The human rights obligations relating to the environment also include substantive obligations to adopt legal and institutional frameworks that protect against environmental damage that would interfere with the enjoyment of human rights, including harm caused by private actors. As my Delegation has already stated in the intervention on Transnational Corporations, we reiterate our call to protect human rights from environmental harm. States have to strike a balance between environmental protection and other legitimate societal interests. But the balance should be reasonable and not result in unjustified and foreseeable infringements of human rights.

In this regard, the Holy See would like to express its appreciation for the good practice of preparing “sustainability reports”, which describe the economic, environmental and social impacts caused by companies’ everyday activities. The comprehensive guidelines prepared by the Global Reporting Initiative provide a framework for measuring and reporting sustainability-related impact and performance, inclusive of indicators relating to the protection of human rights and the environment[4].

It is a matter of justice to help poor and vulnerable people who suffer from causes largely not of their making and beyond their control. One concrete step would be to make available to them the best in adaptation and mitigation technology. Now, all eyes are focussed on the Twenty-first Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC and the Eleventh Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, which will take place in Paris in December 2015. There, the poor and the rich will be winners if we could reach an agreement on a post-2020 international regime, in which all the nations of the world, including the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, bind themselves to a universal agreement on climate.

In conclusion, Mr. President,
As pope Francis stated in different circumstances: “Even if ‘nature is at our disposition’, all too often we do not ‘respect it or consider it a gracious gift which we must care for and set at the service of our brothers and sisters, including future generations’. Here too what is crucial is responsibility on the part of all in pursuing, in a spirit of fraternity, policies respectful of this earth which is our common home.” The responsibility to protect the environment, whether as a developed or a developing country, rests on the shoulders of us all. Taking into consideration the good practices highlighted by the Special Rapporteur, we should not avoid the urgent work that remains to be done for ensuring that future generations might find a world that will allow them to lead prosperous lives.

[1]Cf. doc. A/HRC/22/43, para. 34.
[2] Cf. Resolution 16/11.
[3] Resolution 18/22; and FCCC/CP/2010/7/Add.1, decision 1/CP.16

venerdì 6 marzo 2015

Discussion On Human Rights & Climate Change

Statement by His Excellency Silvano M. Tomasi
Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva
at the 28th Session of the Human Rights Council
Item – 1 Full-Day Discussion On Human Rights & Climate Change
(HRC res. 26/27)
6 March 2015

Mr. President,
The Holy See is encouraged by the growing efforts to address global climate change initiated by a variety of Stakeholders. 
There is increased evidence that the poorest people in the more vulnerable countries will bear most of the burden of adapting to climate change consequences which they had almost no role in creating[1]. As we look toward the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, we are offered a significant opportunity to make two ethical decisions.  Firstly, the nations of the world need to commit themselves to curbing carbon emissions at a minimum level to avoid dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system; and secondly, the nations of the world must sufficiently fund adaptation measures needed by vulnerable nations and peoples to withstand the impacts of climate change.   Our concern for the common good of the planet, and for humanity, urges us to recognize our sense of interdependence with both nature and one another.  No one is exempt from either the impacts of climate change or our moral responsibility to act in solidarity with one another to address this global concern. 
We believe that such decisions will demonstrate humankind’s commitment to showing respect for the environment, for those who suffer the most, and for the sake of present and future generations.  While science continues to research the full implications of climate change, the virtue of prudence calls us to take the responsibility to act to reduce the potential damages, particularly for those individuals who live in poverty, for those who live in very vulnerable climate impact areas, and for future generations.  As Pope Francis underlined, “The effective struggle against global warming will only be possible with a responsible collective answer, that goes beyond particular interests and behavior and is developed free of political and economic pressures … On climate change, there is a clear, definitive and ineluctable ethical imperative to act … The establishment of an international climate change treaty is a grave ethical and moral responsibility.”[2]
Mr. President,
Solidarity with the most vulnerable nations and peoples that are experiencing the impact of climate change in a more prominent and immediate way impels us to contribute to improving their situation and defending their right to development. Poverty and climate change are now intimately linked.  Strategies to address the first need to take into account the latter and vice-versa. 
In fact, poor people living in developing countries are particularly vulnerable given their disproportionate dependency on climate-sensitive resources for their food and livelihoods[3]. The Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food has documented how extreme climate events are increasingly threatening livelihoods and food security.  Indeed, an estimated 600 million people will face malnutrition due to climate change, with increasing malnutrition rates in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa in particular.[4]
            Moreover, the proliferation of floods and storms and the rising of the sea level are showing some of the effects that climate change will have also on the human right to adequate housing. The erosion of livelihoods, partly caused by climate change, is a main “push factor for increasing rural to urban migration. Many will move to urban slums and informal settlements where they will be forced to build shelters in hazardous areas.[5] Already today, an estimated one billion people live in urban slums, on fragile hillsides or flood-prone river banks, which are acutely vulnerable to extreme climate events.
            As we continue to search for viable solutions, we know that the path to a more just and sustainable future is complex and often uncertain. In our collective work to address global climate change, the Holy See is committed to working with all people of good will and it pledges its support for efforts that advance the common good, respect for human dignity and a special care for the most vulnerable.
The Holy See hopes as well that the pledged contributions to the Green Climate Fund will continue to increase so as to enable the most vulnerable nations to mitigate, and adapt to, the effect of climate change more effectively.  Finally, the continuing and deepening collaboration and engagement of civil society and the private sector is a welcome sign.  All of these measures should improve the chances for meaningful and constructive steps to address climate change at the forthcoming Paris Conference. The expected new agreement should embody binding measures of responsibility and solidarity for an effective action by the international community to address together the threats resulting from climate change. Climate change is, in fact, an issue of justice for everyone. The new instrument should rest on that justice, which must guide our deliberations in the weeks to come. Both developed and developing countries have a responsibility to protect: they constitute the one human family of this earth with an equal mandate to manage and protect creation in a responsible manner to ensure that also our future generations find a world that allows them to flourish.

[1] As pointed out by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), “In the Netherlands, people are investing in homes that can float on water. The Swiss Alpine ski industry is investing in artificial snow-making machines,” but “[i]n the Horn of Africa, ‘adaptation’ means that women and young girls walk further to collect water.” In the Ganges and Mekong Deltas, “people are erecting bamboo flood shelters on stilts” and “planting mangroves to protect themselves against storm surges.”
[2] Message of Pope Francis to the President of COP 20 under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
[3] IPCC AR4 WG II, p. 359. United Nations Millennium Project 2005, Halving Hunger: It Can Be Done, Task Force on Hunger, p. 66. Furthermore, according to the Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur on the right to food, “half of the worlds hungry people depend for their survival on lands which are inherently poor and which may be becoming less fertile and less productive as a result of the impacts of repeated droughts, climate change and unsustainable land use” (A/HRC/7/5, para. 51).
[5] A/63/275, paras. 31-38.

giovedì 5 marzo 2015

The Question of the Death Penalty

Statement by His Excellency Silvano M. Tomasi
Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva
at the 28th Session of the Human Rights Council
-         Item 1 - Biennial High-Level Panel on
“The Question of the Death Penalty”
4 March 2015

Mr. Chairman,

The Delegation of the Holy See is pleased to take part in this first biennial high-level panel discussion on the question of the death penalty and joins an increasing number of States in supporting the fifth UN General Assembly resolution calling for a global moratorium on the use of the death penalty.  Public opinion and support of the various provisions aimed at abolishing the death penalty, or suspending its application, is growing. This provides a strong momentum which this Delegation hopes will encourage States still applying the death penalty to move in the direction of its abolition.

The position of the Holy See on this issue has been more clearly articulated in the past decades.  In fact, twenty years ago, the issue was framed within the proper ethical context of defending the inviolable dignity of the human person and the role of the legitimate authority to defend in a just manner the common good of society.[1]  Considering the practical circumstances found in most States, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, it appears evident nowadays that means other than the death penalty “… are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons.”[2]  For that reason, “public authority must limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.”[3]

Political and legislative initiatives being promoted in a growing number of countries to eliminate the death penalty and to continue the substantive progress made in conforming penal law both to the human dignity of prisoners and the effective maintenance of public order are moving in the right direction.[4]

Pope Francis has further emphasized that the legislative and judicial practice of the State authority must always be guided by the “primacy of human life and the dignity of the human person.”  He noted as well “the possibility of judicial error and the use made by totalitarian and dictatorial regimes… as a means of suppressing political dissidence or of persecuting religious and cultural minorities.”[5] 

Thus, respect for the dignity of every human person and the common good are the two pillars on which the position of the Holy See has developed. These principles converge with a similar development in international human rights law and jurisprudence. Moreover, we should take into account that no clear positive effect of deterrence results from the application of the death penalty and that the irreversibility of this punishment does not allow for eventual corrections in the case of wrongful convictions.

Mr. Chairman,

My Delegation contends that bloodless means of defending the common good and upholding justice are possible, and calls on States to adapt their penal system to demonstrate their adhesion to a more humane form of punishment.  As for those countries that claim it is not yet feasible to relinquish this practice, my Delegation encourages them to strive to become capable of doing so.

In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, the Holy See Delegation fully supports the efforts to abolish the use of the death penalty. In order to arrive at this desired  goal, these steps need to be taken: 1) to sustain the social reforms that would enable society to implement the abolition of the death penalty;  2) to improve prison conditions, to ensure respect for the human dignity of the people deprived of their freedom.[6]

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

[1] Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, 25 March 1995, n. 56.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Cf.,  Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, 30 November 2011.
[5]  Pope Francis, Address to the Delegates of the  International Association of Penal Law, 23 October 2015, nos. I and  IIb.
[6] Cf., Ibid.