Pope`s immunity could be challenged in Britain

Last Updated: Sunday, April 4, 2010 - 18:14

London: Protests are growing against Pope
Benedict XVI`s planned trip to Britain, where some lawyers
question whether the Vatican`s implicit statehood status
should shield the pope from prosecution over sex crimes by
paedophile priests.

More than 10,000 people have signed a petition on Downing
Street`s web site against the pope`s 4-day visit to England
and Scotland in September, which will cost UK taxpayers an
estimated 15 million pounds (USD 22.5 million).

The campaign has gained momentum as more Catholic sex
abuse scandals have swept across Europe.

Although Benedict has not been accused of any crime,
senior British lawyers are now examining whether the pope
should have immunity as a head of state and whether he could
be prosecuted under the principle of universal jurisdiction
for an alleged systematic cover-up of sexual abuses by
priests.

Universal jurisdiction, a concept in international law,
allows judges to issue warrants for nearly any visitor accused
of grievous crimes, no matter where they live.

Lawyers are divided over the immunity issue. Some argue
that the Vatican isn`t a true state, while others note the
Vatican has national relations with about 170 countries,
including Britain.

The Vatican is also the only non-member to have permanent
observer status at the UN. Then again, no other top religious
leaders enjoy the same UN privileges or immunity, so why
should the pope?

PTI



First Published: Sunday, April 4, 2010 - 18:14

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