June 21, 2017
OAS: Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law

Intervention of H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio
Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the
Organization of American States

Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law
Forty-seventh regular session of the General Assembly
of the Organization of American States

June 19-21, 2017, Cancun, Mexico


Mr. President,

I would like to extend my delegation’s appreciation for the choice of this theme for our common consideration, with a view to gaining deeper understanding of the global human rights challenges we face today, thereby coming up with more holistic responses.

At the heart of human rights is the recognition that all people are born with inherent equal dignity and worth and have a fundamental right to life, which should be upheld and protected at all stages, from conception to natural death. Unfortunately, the right to life of the unborn, of migrants in search of safety, of victims of armed conflicts, of the poor, of the handicapped, of the elderly and the right to life of those facing the death penalty continues to be ignored, dismissed and debated rather than prioritized.

The rule of law is meant to fulfill a role beyond maintaining harmony and order. It is also supposed to be an exemplary teacher. It is therefore strictly connected with the protection of human rights.

The Holy See thus encourages the OAS to continue and further its efforts in the Hemisphere to promote universal and inalienable human rights. The pillars of integral human development – such as dignified housing, properly remunerated employment, adequate food and drinking water, as well as fundamental human freedoms and spiritual goods – have their common foundation in the right to life, without which human existence is impossible.

Some progress has been made in this regard. My delegation welcomes, in particular, the initiatives that provide practical resources and on-the-ground assessments focused on ensuring access to justice for people in vulnerable situations, including detainees, indigent persons, refugees, and other displaced persons.

While acknowledging the fundamental roles of judges, prosecutors, attorneys, and other vital participants in the implementation of the rule of law, my Delegation is particularly concerned about the persons subject to legal action, particularly those illegally detained, those unjustly accused, those with physical and mental disabilities, and those who have no advocate, no political influence and no resources to vindicate their rights.  Legal guarantees and practical norms must be had to help these categories of persons find recognition and protection within the legal system.

The Holy See wishes to underline the connection between the rule of law and the freedom of opinion and expression, as recognized under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  The imprisonment and murder of journalists, researchers or activists is often a signal that some powerful interest is trying to evade accountability, which is against human rights, against democracy and against the rule of law.

Finally, the independence of the judiciary is an essential element of the rule of law and the fair dispensation of justice.  Encouraging those who stress the need for responsible freedom in the exercise of their judicial function, Pope Francis stated that “lacking such freedom, a nation’s judiciary is corrupt and corrupting.”[1] A captive judiciary is corrupted, to use Pope Francis’ expression, because political factors are illegitimately weighed on the scales of justice; a captive judiciary is corrupting because its decisions, which lack the legitimacy of an objective and impartial application of law, infect the body of law with unsound principles, thereby jeopardizing justice and the common good. With a corrupt and corrupting judiciary, the rule of law ultimately gives way to a rule of force.

Thank you, Mr. President.

1. Pope Francis, Statement to the Judges’ Summit on Human Trafficking and Organized Crime (3 June 2016).