The Holy See Press Office has today published the following communique regarding Pope Francis' Motu Proprio on matters of criminal law in Vatican City State:
“Today His Holiness Pope Francis has issued a Motu proprio on criminal law matters. On this same date, the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State has adopted the following laws: Law No. VIII containing Supplementary Norms on Criminal Law Matters, Law No. IX containing Amendments to the Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code, Law No. X containing General Provisions on Administrative Sanctions.
“The Motu proprio makes the criminal laws adopted by the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State applicable also within the Holy See. The criminal laws adopted today are a continuation of the efforts to update Vatican City State’s legal system, building upon the measures adopted since 2010 during the pontificate of Benedict XVI.
“These laws, however, have a broader scope, since they incorporate into the Vatican legal system the provisions of numerous international conventions including: the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, on the conduct of war and war crimes; the 1965 Convention on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination; the 1984 Convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the 1989 Convention on the rights of the child and its optional protocols of 2000.
“Of particular note in this context is the introduction of the crime of torture and a broader definition of the category of crimes against minors (including: the sale of children, child prostitution, the recruitment of children, sexual violence and sexual acts with children, and the production and possession of child pornography).
“A section of the legislation introduces a list of crimes against humanity, in particular, the crimes of genocide and apartheid, following broadly the definitions adopted in the 1998 Statute of the International Criminal Court. The section of the Criminal Code regarding offences committed in the exercise of public administration has also been revised in light of the 2003 United Nations Convention against corruption. With regard to penalties, that of life imprisonment has been abolished and it has been replaced with a maximum penalty of 30 to 35 years of imprisonment.
“In line with the most recent developments at the international level, the new legislation also introduces a system of penalties for juridical persons who profit from the criminal activities of their constituent bodies or personnel, establishing their direct liability and providing as penalties a set of interdictions and pecuniary sanctions.
“In the area of criminal procedure, the general principles of presumption of innocence and due process within a reasonable time have been recognized explicitly, while the power of the judicial authorities to adopt precautionary measures has been increased by bringing up to date the provisions for confiscation and the freezing of assets.
“Also of importance is the modernization of the rather dated norms governing international judicial cooperation, with the adoption of measures in line with the standards of the most recent international conventions.
“The law on administrative sanctions is of a general nature so as to serve as a common framework that provides for the possibility of sanctions in different areas intended to promote respect for the norms, to render them effective and to protect the public interests”.
The communique concludes, “As a whole, these normative efforts form part of broader process aimed at modernizing further the Vatican legal system with a view to enhancing its consistency and effectiveness”.