Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Prominent British atheists endorse efforts to seek pope's arrest

Atheist campaigners Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are exploring options to have the pope arrested when he visits the UK, for crimes against humanity related to the child abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.

Richard Dawkins, the British scientist and Christopher Hitchens, the British-American author and journalist - both vocal atheists - support efforts to ascertain whether Pope Benedict XVI can be arrested and tried when he comes to Britain in September.

Hitchens is paying lawyers to look into the possibility of prosecuting the pope for crimes against humanity in the wake of the sex abuse scandal that has embroiled the Catholic Church worldwide. While Dawkins is not contributing financially, he says on his Web site that he "wholeheartedly supports it."

Hitchens has hired human rights barrister Geoffrey Robertson QC and solicitor Mark Stephens from the London law firm Finers, Stephens Innocent, who both believe they can make a case against the pope.

"It is clearly a crime against humanity to be complicit in the cover-up of a crime against humanity, and that would be susceptible to being heard before the ICC [International Criminal Court] in The Hague" Stephens told Deutsche Welle.

"The alternative is, if and when the pope comes to this country [the UK] in the autumn, individuals who have been abused will be able to bring criminal proceedings in the criminal courts of the UK," he explained.

Robertson also believes that the Holy See can no longer ignore international law. The Catholic Church's cover-up of cases of abuse in Ireland, for example, he writes in the British newspaper The Guardian, "amounts to the criminal offence of aiding and abetting sex with minors."

Pope Benedict is to be in Britain from September 16-19, the first papal visit to the country since 1982.

Stephens argues that the pope is not a head of state, so he does not have to be granted immunity from prosecution, and could, therefore, be arrested on British soil.

"The Vatican is not a country, as you and I understand it, it's not a member of the UN, the US prevented it from becoming a member of the United Nations," he told Deutsche Welle

To read more: http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,5461075,00.html

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