INTERVENTION OF THE HOLY SEE
THIRD COMMITTEE OF THE 69th SESSION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
68 (b and c): "HUMAN RIGHTS"
H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Wednesday, 29 October 2014
I would like to thank the various Special Rapporteurs and Special Mandate
holders for their reports and work during the past year. Today’s discussion
brings to light a great number of serious challenges to human rights around the
world, and reminds us of the need to rebuild trust in the human rights system in
upholding fundamental human rights.
The right to life as enshrined in natural law and protected by international
human rights laws lies at the foundation of all human rights. The Holy See
reaffirms that all life must be fully protected in all its stages from
conception until natural death.
In this regard, my delegation welcomes the reduction in the last two years of
the recourse to the death penalty around the globe. As Pope Francis affirmed
before representatives of the Association of International Penal Law, received
in the Vatican last October 23, "it is impossible to imagine that states today
cannot make use of another means than capital punishment to defend peoples’
lives from an unjust aggression." The Pope also recommends the abolition of life
imprisonment, which he defines as "a hidden death penalty" because, like the
death penalty, it excludes all possibilities of redemption and recuperation. He
warned against "penal populism" that privileges punishment to solve society’s
ills, rather than a more rigorous pursuit of social justice and preventative
measures. This is especially important when it comes to juvenile delinquency and
crimes committed by the elderly. Pope Francis called on all people of goodwill
to struggle also to improve prison conditions, out of respect for the human
dignity of prisoners, so many of whom, in so many countries of the world, have
been detained for long periods without trial.
Along with the right to life, the right to freedom of thought, conscience and
religion continues to face serious challenges around the world. In some regions,
violations against religious freedom have multiplied and intensified in their
brutality, in particular against religious minorities. My delegation insists
that these ruthless violations must not only be seen as violence against ethnic
and religious minorities, but first and foremost must be condemned as blatant
violations of fundamental human rights, and must be dealt with accordingly.
In other parts of the world, religious freedom faces legal barriers put by
public authorities and experiences condescending if not outright discriminatory
behavior of some in society. Some authorities seek to restrict religious
observance to the private realm and impose legal obligations that conflict with
personal conscience and religious beliefs. Given this misconstrued understanding
of religious freedom and similar misconceptions still existing today, my
delegation wishes to note that the struggle for religious freedom was at the
origins of certain nations. The right to freedom of thought, conscience and
religion is an inalienable fundamental human right; thus, it has always been and
will always be at the core of the struggle for the recognition and free exercise
of fundamental human rights.
In this context, my delegation welcomes the Interim Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief (A/69/261), which, inter alia,
identifies measures of "reasonable accommodation" to overcome discrimination and
violation of this fundamental human right in the workplace. Indeed, a world that
truly respects religious freedom must move beyond mere toleration. The Universal
Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights instruments
explicitly affirm that the right to freedom of religion or belief includes the
right of all to practice their faith alone or in community, in public or
private, and the right to change his or her religion or belief.
In order to address these challenges, we must strengthen the international
human rights system. My delegation hopes that the resolution on Strengthening
and enhancing the effective functioning of the human rights treaty body system
(A/RES/68/268) translates into meaningful reform towards greater observance of
treaties (Pacta sunt servanda) and their faithful and objective, not political
or ideological, monitoring.
With lessons learned from our failure to stop massive violations of
fundamental human rights – including and most especially religious freedom- and
of international humanitarian law, the time is for courageous decisions. My
delegation looks forward to working with all delegations during this session to
reinvigorate respect and appreciation for fundamental human rights around the
Thank you, Madam Chair.