Friday, July 23, 2010

Government plan could prevent Pope Benedict arrest

Government plan could prevent Pope Benedict arrest
The government have proposed legal changes that could stop an arrest warrant being issued against Pope Benedict XVI.

Chris Housden

news.PinkPaper.comFriday, 23 July 201023 The government have proposed legal changes that could stop an arrest warrant being issued against Pope Benedict XVI.

Campaigners had been planning to use international laws to issue the warrant during the Pope’s visit in September, the BBC report. However, a warrant may not be possible now that Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has proposed changes to universal jurisdiction.

Under the law, any individual can be tried in Britain for war crimes, crimes against humanity and torture, even if committed on foreign soil. Clarke’s changes would mean any warrant would have to be consented by Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer, QC.

This effectively means that Starmer would be able to override the courts.

Among those supporting the arrest was Peter Tatchell, who applied for arrest warrants for Henry Kissinger and Robert Mugabe in the past.

He exclusively told PinkPaper.com: "These proposals will make it harder to arrest human rights abusers and those who protect them. It erects a further hurdle to bringing perpetrators to justice. By the time the DPP has decided whether to not to allow an arrest warrant, the fugitive may have left the UK.”

Tatchell also commented on the timing of the proposals, stating: "This looks like a deliberate attempt to prevent the issuing of an arrest warrant against the Pope during his State Visit to the UK. The government clearly fears that a child sex abuse victim may seek to arrest and prosecute Benedict XVI.”

MPs have argued that a change is needed, as the current universal jurisdiction law is open to improper use, given that the amount of evidence required to serve a warrant is much less than would be required in domestic law. However, Tatchell contests their solution: "It is up to a magistrate, not the DPP, to make the initial decision about whether there is a credible case against the Pope."

The pontiff is still set to come to the UK, the first papal visit since Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1982.

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