[JURIST] Pope Benedict XVI [official profile] stressed the importance of respecting human rights as the foundation for peace in a New Year's homily at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome Monday. In his message [text] for World Peace Day, marked by the Catholic Church on January 1 since 1968, the Pope pointed specifically to conflicts in the Middle East and the fight against terrorism as evidence of the failure of countries to respect human rights by honoring and extending the scope of international humanitarian law:
The recognition that there exist inalienable human rights connected to our common human nature has led to the establishment of a body of international humanitarian law which States are committed to respect, even in the case of war. Unfortunately, to say nothing of past cases, this has not been consistently implemented in certain recent situations of war. Such, for example, was the case in the conflict that occurred a few months ago in southern Lebanon, where the duty to protect and help innocent victims and to avoid involving the civilian population was largely ignored. The heart-rending situation in Lebanon and the new shape of conflicts, especially since the terrorist threat unleashed completely new forms of violence, demand that the international community reaffirm international humanitarian law, and apply it to all present-day situations of armed conflict, including those not currently provided for by international law.Pope Benedict also called for international movement towards nuclear non-proliferation agreements.
Moreover, the scourge of terrorism demands a profound reflection on the ethical limits restricting the use of modern methods of guaranteeing internal security. Increasingly, wars are not declared, especially when they are initiated by terrorist groups determined to attain their ends by any means available. In the face of the disturbing events of recent years, States cannot fail to recognize the need to establish clearer rules to counter effectively the dramatic decline that we are witnessing. War always represents a failure for the international community and a grave loss for humanity. When, despite every effort, war does break out, at least the essential principles of humanity and the basic values of all civil coexistence must be safeguarded; norms of conduct must be established that limit the damage as far as possible and help to alleviate the suffering of civilians and of all the victims of conflicts.
The Pope additionally reiterated the Catholic Church's emphasis on the right to life, prominently cited earlier in the week in its condemnation of the execution of Saddam Hussein [JURIST report; JURIST news archive]:
Peace is based on respect for the rights of all. Conscious of this, the Church champions the fundamental rights of each person. In particular she promotes and defends respect for the life and the religious freedom of everyone. Respect for the right to life at every stage firmly establishes a principle of decisive importance: life is a gift which is not completely at the disposal of the subject.On Saturday, Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi termed Hussein's execution [official report] by hanging "tragic and [a] reason for sadness" on a Vatican Radio news program. The Catholic Church opposes capital punishment and has pressed for its international abolition. Reuters has more.