New Criminal Laws Introduced in Vatican City State

Pope Francis Issues Motu Proprio on Updates to Laws in Line with International Conventions

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In a press conference held today at the Holy See Press Office, Dr. Giuseppe Dalla Torre, president of the Tribunal of Vatican City State, briefed journalists on several updates to criminal law matters that were signed today in a Motu Proprio (Latin for “on one’s own initiative”), by Pope Francis today.

The laws that were adopted by the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State are: Law No. VIII containing Supplementary Norms on Criminal Law Matters; Law No. IX containing Amendments to the Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code; and Law No. X containing General Provisions on Administrative Sanctions.

The new laws, explained Dr. Dalla Torre, “have always been enacted but was needed was an update in line with the international conventions that currently exist.” The president of the Tribunal of Vatican City State went on to say that the adoption of these laws are built upon the measure enacted in 2010 by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States, also released a statement regarding the Motu Proprio, stressing that the new laws give a clearer definition of laws that are already established.

While many of the specific criminal offences included in these laws are undeniably new, it would however be incorrect to assume that the forms of conduct thereby sanctioned were previously licit,” Archbishop Mamberti stated. “These were indeed punished, but as broader, more generic forms of criminal activity. The introduction of the new regulations is useful to define the specific cases with greater certainty and precision and to thus satisfy the international parameters, calibrating the sanctions to the specific gravity of the case.”

“These laws, however, have a broader scope, since they incorporate into the Vatican legal system the provisions of numerous international conventions including: the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, on the conduct of war and war crimes; the 1965 Convention on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination; the 1984 Convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the 1989 Convention on the rights of the child and its optional protocols of 2000,” a communique from the Holy See Press Office stated.

The communique also noted the inclusion of crime against torture and a “broader definition” of the categories of crimes against minors. The efforts are seen as a “broader process aimed at modernizing further the Vatican legal system with a view to enhancing its consistency and effectiveness.”

In his Motu Proprio detailing the updates, Pope Francis highlighted the need for international judicial cooperation in criminal matters.

“In ratifying numerous international conventions in these areas, and acting also on behalf of Vatican City State, the Holy See has constantly maintained that such agreements are effective means to prevent criminal activities that threaten human dignity, the common good and peace,” the Holy Father wrote.

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Junno Arocho Esteves

Newark, New Jersey, USA Bachelor of Science degree in Diplomacy and International Relations.

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