Court rejects case involving Vatican’s response to sex abuse

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Oct. 12 (UPI) — The European Court of Human Rights rejected Tuesday a case related to the Vatican’s handling of sexual abuse.

The case stems from allegations by a group of 24 Belgian, French and Dutch nationals that they were victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests when they were children.

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The group filed a class action in the Belgian court in 2011 against a number of leaders of the Catholic Church of Belgium for compensation based on claims of damages from alleged sexual abuse and “because of the Catholic Church’s policy of silence on the issue.” They also called the church’s handling of sex abuse “structurally deficient,” and claimed the defendants were liable to pay 10,000 euros (approximately $11,600) to each survivor.

The Belgian court dismissed the case citing lack of jurisdiction in 2013, and in 2016, the court of appeal upheld the judgment. The plaintiffs argued that the Belgian court dismissal violated the European Convention of Human Rights, but the international human rights court based in Strasbourg, France, ruled Tuesday it didn’t.

The court explained that the Belgian courts determination that the Holy See was a sovereign state granted immunity in civil proceedings was not “arbitrary or unreasonable.”

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“The Belgian courts in declining to hear the tort case brought by the applicants against the Holy See had not departed from the generally recognized principles of international law in matters of state immunity,” the ECHR added.

The case was the first one to deal with immunity of the Holy See, according to the court.

The ECHR noted that the decision was not final as any party may request it be referred to the Grand Chamber of the Court for review within three months of the ruling.