The Holy See continues to push for a criminal justice system that affords greater protection for you. The following is the statement by Monsignor Janusz S. Urbańczyk, Head of the Delegation of the Holy See, 27th Session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, in Vienna, May 14-18, 2018
The Holy See is pleased to participate in this 27th Session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, and as Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, stated in his letter on behalf of His Holiness to this Session, “Pope Francis offers prayerful good wishes for the successful outcome of the work of the Commission and sends cordial greetings to all those taking part”.1 My Delegation would furthermore like to congratulate you, Mr. Chairman, and the Bureau of the Commission for the extensive efforts you have expended in preparing for, and now in leading, this session.
Protecting children from criminal activity
In its Doha Declaration, the 13th United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice identified the need to “integrate child- and youth-related issues into our criminal justice reform efforts, recognizing the importance of protecting children from all forms of violence, exploitation, and abuse, consistent with the obligations of parties under relevant international instruments”.2 This call to integrate the protection of children in efforts aimed at improving crime prevention and criminal justice across the globe is most laudable, and the Holy See commends the work undertaken in this regard by States, attesting to the fact that the “dignity and rights of children must be protected by legal systems as priceless goods for the entire human family”. 3
At the same time, the international community continues to face undeniable evidence that much remains to be done to protect children from criminal activities. In this regard, and against the backdrop of the thematic discussion on cybercrime that will be held during this Session, the Holy See would like to offer a few points as its contribution to these discussions.
Trafficking in children and sexual exploitation of children
The Holy See continues to be deeply concerned about the nefarious phenomenon of trafficking in human beings, where men, women, and children are sold into modern forms of slavery by various types of criminal groups and networks. 4 It is also most disconcerting that trends in collected data on human trafficking show that the numbers of children among the total of detected victims have increased significantly in recent years.5
Another issue of deep concern for the Holy See is the horrific crime of sexual exploitation of children. This grave violation “directed against these most defenseless of human creatures”,6 continues to mutate into ever more disturbing forms that reveal the shocking capacity for evil found in the hearts of the perpetrators.
The role of information and communication technologies
The past few decades have seen notable advancements in information and communication technologies that “if properly utilized, can be of great service to mankind”.7 Moreover, within the crime prevention and criminal justice sectors, these technological advancements have proved to be useful, especially by opening up new avenues and providing new tools for law enforcement, international cooperation, and data collection.
However, despite these well-known positive consequences of information and communication technologies within the fields belonging to this Commission’s mandate, the negative and deeply problematic aspects of the internet, particularly of social media, and access to communication technologies are deeply worrying. It is becoming increasingly evident that human traffickers use the internet not only to recruit their victims, but also to manage the buying and selling of men, women, and children. In the case of children, “grooming” and online exploitation are significant features of trafficking in children. Moreover, new information and communications technologies and applications are also “misused to commit child sexual exploitation crimes and… technical developments have permitted the appearance of crimes such as the production, distribution or possession of child sexual abuse images, audio or video, the exposure of children to harmful content, the grooming, harassment and sexual abuse of children”.8
Pope Francis, speaking about the need to protect children in the digital world, highlighted how the ever-increasing number of children with access to the internet, social media and other platforms forces us to ask: “What do they find on the net?” Will they find that which advances their dignity, their integral development, and their education or will they encounter and become ensnared by “the grave and appalling crimes of online trafficking in persons, prostitution, and even the commissioning and live viewing of acts of rape and violence against minors”?9
Allow me to conclude with the Pope’s call for common efforts in combating these grave violations of the dignity of children:
But we must not let ourselves be overcome by fear, which is always a poor counselor. Nor let ourselves be paralyzed by the sense of powerlessness that overwhelms us before the difficulty of the task before us. Rather, we are called to join forces, realizing that we need one another in order to seek and find the right means and approaches needed for effective responses. We must be confident that ‘we can broaden our vision. We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology; we can put it at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral’.”10
In closing, the Holy See assures this Commission of its desire to collaborate with every effort to provide a safer and more secure future for every child and looks forward to the discussions during this 27th Session.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
1 CARDINAL PIETRO PAROLIN, Letter to the 27th Session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, from the Vatican, 8 May 2018.
2 13TH UN CONGRESS ON CRIME PREVENTION AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE, Doha Declaration on Integrating Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice into the Wider United Nations Agenda to Address Social and Economic Challenges and to Promote the Rule of Law at the National and International Levels, and Public Participation, 5e.
3 POPE FRANCIS, Address to the Participants in the Congress on “Child Dignity in the Digital World”, 6 October 2017. 2
4 Cf. POPE FRANCIS, Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2016, 12 September 2015.
5 Cf. 27TH SESSION OF THE COMMISSION ON CRIME PREVENTION AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE, World crime trends and emerging issues and responses in the field of crime prevention and criminal justice. Note by the Secretariat (E/CN.15/2018/10), pp. 5-8.
6 Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, n. 245.
7 SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Decree on the Media of Social Communications, 4 December 1963, n. 2.
8 UNITED NATIONS ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL, resolution 2011/33, Prevention, protection and international cooperation against the use of new information technologies to abuse and/or exploit children.
9 POPE FRANCIS, Address to the Participants in the Congress on “Child Dignity in the Digital World”, 6 October 2017.
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