Has the Vatican read the Rome Statute?

Coat_of_arms_Holy_See.svgA Reuters article this week opened with a curious lead sentence:

‘Human trafficking is a crime against humanity that should be recognized as such and punished by international or regional courts, a Vatican study group said on Monday.’

The article proceeded to quote from a statement issued following a 2-day Vatican conference:

‘ “International or regional courts … should be created because human trafficking in an international phenomenon that cannot be properly prosecuted and punished at the national level.”‘

What’s curious is the omission in the article (though perhaps not at the seminar) of the fact that some acts of trafficking already fall within the jurisdiction of a permanent international court.

To be precise, Article 7(1)(c) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, adopted in 1998 and in force since 2002, expressly lists “[e]nslavement” as a crime against humanity that the ICC may prosecute, “when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack.” In turn, Article 7(2)(c) states:

‘ “Enslavement” means the exercise of any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership over a person and includes the exercise of such power in the course of trafficking in persons, in particular women and children ….’

The concern for migrants that Pope Francis I has voiced, and that this new Vatican report echoes, is laudable. And the Vatican, the U.N. non-member state called the Holy See, is party to scores of treaties. (credit for image of Holy See’s coat of arms) It remains to be seen whether this status and that stated concern combine to prompt the Holy See – which has a past with the ICC (here and here) – to consider joining, submitting to the jurisdiction of, and fully supporting, the court.

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