SNAP campaign condemned for undermining crimes against humanity

By David Kerr

London, England, Sep 21, 2011 / 05:49 pm (CNA).- Campaigners demanding that the International Criminal Court prosecute Pope Benedict XVI over clerical sex abuse are being accused of undermining human rights by a leading expert on religion and the law.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands. Credit: Vincent van Zeijst (CC BY-SA 3.0)

“It’s simply a publicity stunt,” said U.K.-based attorney Neil Addison in a Sept. 21 interview with CNA. He added, “what these groups are alleging – even at its very worst – does not fall within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.”

The bid to bring Pope Benedict before the International Criminal Court was launched last week by the American organization Survivors Network of those Abused by Priest (SNAP) and the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights. The groups alleged that the Pope had “direct and superior responsibility for the crimes against humanity of rape and other sexual violence committed around the world.”

On Sept. 20 the campaigners held a press conference in Rome asking for any Vatican employees with evidence against Pope Benedict – and three other senior Vatican officials – to come forward.

“I’d probably get sued if I answered that,” Addison said when he was asked what he thinks of the conduct of such lawyers.

But even though he calls the move by SNAP a publicity stunt, Addison maintains it is far from harmless. “I think it damages the idea of crimes against humanities because it demeans it.”

Addison 34-year career as an attorney has earned him the reputation of being an expert on all matters regarding religion and the law. He was a Senior Crown Prosecutor for eight of those years. An academic as well as a practicing lawyer, Addison recently published a legal textbook on “Religious Discrimination and Hatred Law.” He also edits the website

He explained that the International Criminal Court exists to prosecute “crimes against humanity” and for that “you have to have had an attack upon a civilian population. And the Swiss Guard has not invaded anywhere. So it doesn’t fit within the criteria.”

He also noted that the Court only has jurisdiction for actions from 2001 onwards and that, as far as he was aware, SNAP does not identify any particular incidents beyond that date. “All the Irish reports, for example, relate to incidents prior to 2001 – even the recent Cloyne Report,” he pointed out.

“The problem is that they’ve had apologies, they’ve had damages, and I’m now not sure what more they want. I don’t think they do either,” Addison said.

Even “the Pope being in a prison cell” would probably fail to satisfy the campaign groups, he suggested.