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Survivors Network of Those Abused By Priests, Inc. v. Jennifer M. Joyce, et al.

  • by

International Criminal Court (the “ICC”)

ICC File No. OTP-CR-159/11

Instrument(s) Cited:
Rome Statute of the ICC:

  • Article 6 and 8 (Subject-matter jurisdiction)
  • Article 12 (Temporal jurisdiction)
  • Article 53

Case Summary:

The Center for Constitutional Rights (“CCR”) represented the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (“SNAP”) in a filing before the International Criminal Court requesting that the Prosecutor of the ICC open an investigation and prosecution of high-level Vatican officials for crimes against humanity, specifically rape and other forms of sexual violence and torture.

Issue and resolution:
Sexual violence against children as a crime against humanity under the jurisdiction of the ICC. The filing alleged that pervasive and serious sexual violence against children and vulnerable adults by priests and others associated with the Catholic Church constituted crimes against humanity within the jurisdiction of the ICC, and that high-level Vatican superiors should be held criminally responsible for such crimes. The Court declined to pursue the case, stating that the matters described do not appear to fall within the jurisdiction of the ICC.

Court reasoning:
The Court stated that it did not appear to have temporal jurisdiction over some of the allegations described in the CCR’s filing, as the ICC may only exercise jurisdiction over crimes committed after the entry into force of the Rome Statute on July 1st 2002 or following the ratification of the Statute by the State concerned.

The Court also stated that it did not appear to have subject-matter jurisdiction over other allegations described in the CCR’s filing, as the ICC may only exercise jurisdiction over the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, each of which are carefully defined in the Rome Statute.

SNAP and CCR have since submitted reports to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (“CRC”). The CRC questioned Vatican officials in Geneva on 16 January 2014, and issued concluding observations on 31 January 2014, stating that with respect to child sexual abuse committed by members of the Catholic churches who operate under the authority of the Holy See, the Vatican “has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by and the impunity of the perpetrators.”

CCR and SNAP have also filed reports to the UN Committee Against Torture in connection with the Committee’s review of the Vatican’s compliance with the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Committee issued concluding observations on 17 June 2014 that expressed concern with respect to the Vatican’s handling of certain aspects of cases of sexual abuse of minors.

Link to Full Judgment:

This case summary is provided by the Child Rights International Network for educational and informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.