October 3, 2019
Statement On Crime Prevention and criminal Justice and International Drug Control

Statement by H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza

Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See

Seventy-fourth Session of the United Nations General Assembly

Third Committee consideration of item 108 (Crime prevention and criminal justice) and item 110 (International drug control)

New York, 10-11 October 2019


Mr. Chair,

Crime prevention and criminal justice must be based on respect for the rule of law and for universal human rights. The rule of law enshrines the virtue of justice in human society and fortifies the common good through respect for the law and ensuring the sovereignty of the law, to the exclusion of arbitrary, corrupt or partial law. To achieve the implementation of the rule of law in our societies, it must be advanced not only by law enforcement or the judiciary, but also by society at large in united and coordinated efforts. Such united and coordinated efforts are crucial to ensure that the rule of law moves from being a principle to be a truly integral part of our societies.

Advancement of the rule of law must be accompanied by respect for universal human rights. This means that the international community must incorporate recognition of, respect for, and protection of universal human rights in efforts to prevent crime and respond to criminal activity. Further, it means that national responses to crime from law enforcement and the judiciary, as well as all other State actors and stakeholders, must be in line with universal human rights obligations, thereby promoting authentic justice, health and well-being that respect the dignity of the human person. Recently, Pope Francis called on judges to exercise a justice that is “attentive to the least and their integration: indeed, with the duty of giving to each person what is due to them, one cannot forget the extreme weakness that afflicts the lives of many and influences decisions”.

The Holy See, therefore, welcomes that the broader rule of law issues will be central to the 14th United Nations Crime Congress, to be held in Kyoto, Japan, next year.

Human trafficking is, as Pope Francis has repeatedly stressed, an open wound on the body of contemporary society, a crime against humanity, and an atrocious scourge that is present throughout the world on a broad scale. It is a global phenomenon, he has added, that “exceeds the competence of any one community or country. In order to eliminate it, we need a mobilization comparable in size to that of the phenomenon itself.” However, we must state with candor, compunction and conviction that this mobilization has not been comparable in size to that of metastasizing cancer of human trafficking. Despite a clearer recognition of the dimensions of the problem, the resources needed to respond to it, and the commitment of governments, institutions and individuals to combat it, the number of those enslaved continues to grow.

In particular, greater resources are needed to protect and assist victims. Thankfully, there is now greater awareness and legal recognition that those entrapped in modern slavery are indeed victims rather than “silent partners” or, even worse, criminals. More services are in place to identify and liberate victims, regularize their situation and put them on the path to recovery. Because of the deep traumas suffered, however, there is need for greater recognition that the work of rehabilitation cannot be a brief program but requires a long-term investment to provide the healing and training necessary for the victims to begin a normal, productive and autonomous life. That investment must include a considerable expansion in the amount of residential treatment facilities.

            Earlier this, the Ministerial Segment of the 62nd session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) adopted the ministerial declaration “Strengthening our actions at the national, regional and international levels to accelerate the implementation of our joint commitments to address and counter the world drug problem”. It marks 10 years since the adoption of the 2009 Political Declaration and Plan of Action. The declaration affirmed once more the international community’s crucial “determination to address and counter the world drug problem and to actively promote a society free of drug abuse”.

Such renewed determination is indeed required. Expanding drug markets, record levels of production of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, and the increasing links between drug trafficking, corruption and criminal activity, even terrorism, all call on the international community to recognize that much more remains to be done. In addition, the low availability of those internationally controlled substances used for medical and scientific purposes, including for the relief of pain, and the shortcomings in drug treatment and healthcare, evidence that both pillars of the drug control regime are under significant pressure. The grave wounds that drugs cause, for the individual and society more broadly, cannot be denied. Pope Francis has on multiple occasions stressed that drugs inflict a deep wound on our society and ensnared many people in their web.  Many victims have lost their freedom and have been enslaved to them. Drugs take their toll on so many more lives than those who use them.  Family members, friends, children, and entire communities are deeply harmed when drugs steal the minds and destroy the bodies of those who are caught in substance abuse.

Therefore, the Holy See strongly believes that greater focus on the implementation of all commitments, goals and targets is required. The response must be guided by the principle of common and shared responsibility. Such responsibility needs to be founded on increased international cooperation taking an integrated scientific evidence-based, multidisciplinary, mutually reinforcing and balanced approach. 

A re-affirmation and protection of the three drug control conventions, outlining the fundamental principles for all efforts to tackle the world drug problem, is also sorely needed. As in 1961, the international community must today begin with the acknowledgement that “addiction to narcotic drugs constitutes a serious evil for the individual and is fraught with social and economic danger to mankind” and that “the medical use of narcotic drugs continues to be indispensable for the relief of pain and suffering and that adequate provision must be made to ensure the availability of narcotic drugs for such purposes”.

In closing, my Delegation wishes to reaffirm the Holy See’s opposition to legalizing drug use as a means to fight drug addiction. As Pope Francis stated already in 2014, in his address to the International Drug Enforcement Conference in Rome, “The fight against drugs cannot be won with drugs. Drugs are an evil, and with evil there can be neither surrender nor compromise.”

Thank you, Mr. Chair.