Interventions: Statements of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations
 
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INTERVENTION OF H.E. ARCHBISHOP FRANCIS CHULLIKATT

APOSTOLIC NUNCIO

PERMANENT OBSERVER OF THE HOLY SEE TO THE UNITED NATIONS

 

Open Debate of the United Nations Security Council on

“Women and peace and security: sexual violence in conflict”

 

(New York, 24 June 2013)

 

Mr. President,

At the outset, allow me to join other delegations in congratulating you, Mr. President, and your delegation for presiding over the work of the Security Council during this month. Today’s discussion provides a welcome opportunity for the wider membership to collaborate on the means for ending the ongoing proliferation of sexual violence.

The Holy See, while operating within the family of nations, constantly strives to promote peace, security and the rule of law, as a base for enhancing development, freedom, and the dignity of all peoples and each person, from conception to natural death. While firmly opposing recourse to armed conflict as means to solving international or national disputes, the Holy See recognizes the tragic and sad evidence that for many parts of the world, war is still an appalling reality.

The international community as a whole and this body in particular, as established by the Charter of the United Nations, has a grave responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security and, where conflict occurs, finding the means for restoring a peace based on justice and charity.

Within this framework, the Holy See appreciates the Security Council’s commitment to enhancing the international awareness and resolve for addressing the victimization of women and girls, but also men and boys by the heinous act of sexual violence so often found in situations of armed conflict.

A just response to sexual violence must not be motivated by revenge, which would simply perpetrate the chain of hatred, but, rather, must seek to build the common good.  This responsibility requires holding perpetrators accountable for their actions in order to deter future violence, while at the same time repairing the damage done to victims and the community as a whole by providing the necessary reparation, support and care in recognition of their human dignity and worth.

A truly human-centered approach to providing assistance to victims and their communities requires respect for life at all stages of development.  In this regard, we regret that the resolution just adopted goes beyond this noble call and instead seeks to promote a potentially destructive notion of health care, such as sexual and reproductive health, which too often is used as a justification for taking life rather than upholding it. Death of an innocent unborn child only visits further violence on a woman already in difficulty. 

The Catholic Church through its institutions, particularly female religious institutes, is firmly committed to a compassionate outreach to victims, to alleviate their sufferings and to accompany them, as far as it is possible, on the way to recovery and to resumption of their own life in freedom and dignity.

We hope that future discussions of this issue will remain focused on the topic under discussion rather than be diverted towards the promotion of political or ideological agendas which serve only to harm human dignity and are already under discussion in other UN fora.

Secondly, respect for the rights of victims and offenders requires that penal processes be guided by the meticulous search for truth and conducted in a timely manner.  

The accused must be able to defend themselves and judges must be given the necessary independence so as to avoid ruling for reasons other than justice itself.  In this regard, public pronouncements of guilt by the media, or by political groups, both at the national and international level, before the tribunal reaches its decision, may seriously hamper our collective efforts to combat the scourge of sexual violence.

Thirdly, in recognition of the principle of complementarity, International tribunals must adhere to the role of local national systems as the primary source for holding  an individual accountable. In this sense, States must be provided with the necessary technical and legislative resources to address sexual violence in conflict settings and uphold humanitarian law and internationally agreed human rights.  Such respect for national authorities helps to restore trust in national and local juridical systems and provides greater participation for victims and the affected communities. It is only when such national juridical systems prove unable or unwilling to fulfill their responsibility to defend innocent victims and the common good that the international community has a responsibility to intervene to protect victims and uphold human dignity.

Mr. President,

This responsibility does not fall on States alone but it is one to which international organizations, such as the United Nations, must also adhere.  This is of particular importance in the area of peacekeeping operations so that those sent to protect people from violence do not become the very source of it.  In this regard, my delegation welcomes the progress to reduce the instances of sexual violence committed by United Nations personnel, including peacekeepers as outlined by the Secretary-General in his report “Special measures for the protection from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse,” and his call to work together to enforce the zero tolerance policy and hold perpetrators accountable.

Thank you, Mr. President.


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