The Immunity of the Holy See

by Luca Pasquet and Cedric Ryngaert

This article offers a critical assessment of the European Court of Human Rights’ judgment in the case JC and others v Belgium, the first pronouncement of an international court concerning the jurisdictional immunity of the Holy See. Rendered in a case concerning sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, the decision raises a number of relevant questions concerning the application of State immunity to a non-state actor and its impact on the right to have access to a court. The article discusses the legal status of the Holy See and whether it enjoys state immunity under international law, focusing on the distinction between sovereign and private acts, and the possibility to qualify the members of the clergy as agents of the Holy See for the purpose of the territorial tort exception. It also discusses how granting immunity to the Holy See may frustrate the attempts of the victims to make the apical organs of the Church accountable for their handling of sex abuse scandals.

DOI 10.23815/2421-2156.ITALJ           ISSN 2421-2156

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