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German military bishop says US wants to ‘hinder’ International Criminal Court

July 31, 2020 CNA Daily News 1

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 31, 2020 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- The military bishop of Germany says that U.S. soldiers should be held accountable to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged war crimes. A Catholic University law professor said that while international cooperation for justice is important, the U.S. is not a signatory to the treaty that created the international court.

“The rule of law, and with it peace between peoples and nations, is at stake,” wrote Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck of the Catholic Military Episcopal Office of Germany on July 30.
He called it “tragic and contrary to American tradition” that the U.S. has announced sanctions against ICC officials who have attempted to investigate members of the U.S. military and CIA for alleged war crimes committed in Afghanistan.

“If the U.S. succeeds in its attempt to hinder the International Criminal Court’s investigations in Afghanistan, it will provide Russia and China arguments for doing as they please in their areas of influence, for instance, in Hong Kong or with the Uyghurs, in Syria, Eastern Ukraine and on the Crimea,” he added.

In November 2017, the ICC first announced that it planned to investigate U.S. soldiers for alleged war crimes from the war in Afghanistan. In March, the court’s appeals chamber approved the investigation to go forward.
On June 11, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced economic sanctions against ICC officials involved with the investigation “and against others who materially support such officials’ activities.”

Pompeo also expanded visa restrictions on officials involved in the investigation.

“The ICC cannot subject Americans to arrest, prosecution, and jail. The U.S. is not a party to the Rome Statute that created the ICC,” Pompeo said.

Antonio Perez, a law professor at the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law, told CNA that in principle, the statement by Overbeck “articulates a view about the nature of international law that, in large respects, isn’t really inconsistent with the overall Catholic position,” 

Enforcing justice to establish international peace is part of Church teaching, Perez said. For centuries, the Church has taught that “true international order requires justice,” and rejects the notion that it is “only the will of states that defines international law.”

“You can’t have peace without justice, and you can’t have justice without some kind of adjudication,” he said.

But the U.S. is not a party to the Rome Statute, which binds party countries to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.

While President Bill Clinton signed the treaty, he did not send it to the senate for ratification because of concerns about whether the court would function fairly. He recommended his successors not submit the agreement to the senate “until our fundamental concerns are satisfied.”

President George W. Bush eventually revoked the Clinton administration’s signature of the treaty.

The court has been criticized as unjust because it lacks jury trials, and is sometimes said to defy conventions of procedure that have become standard in criminal trials. Some legal scholars say the court undermines Constitutional sovereignty, and that if the U.S. submitted cases to its authority, it would concede the ICC’s right to bring charges in other cases.

Normally under international law, a party is not bound by a treaty it is not party to, Perez said, but the ICC is now saying it can apply its statutes to the conduct of U.S. soldiers and CIA personnel in Afghanistan.

“That’s clearly something with which the United States disagrees,” Perez said, noting that many other countries disagree with that assertion of authority as well.

As a matter of practice, the U.S. has often declined to accept the authority of international tribunals, and has since 1984 not accepted the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice, or World Court, an organ of the United Nations.

Regarding the application of Church teaching on international treaties to the present circumstances, the situation is more complex than Overbeck makes it out to be, Perez said.

“The Catholic position in practice in resolving particular international conflicts has been much more nuanced,” Perez said. It must be applied to each individual circumstance, he said, and does not offer one single “absolutist” answer.

“The tradition isn’t a system that gives you absolute answers in concrete cases. It’s much more complicated than that,” Perez said.

Thus, “if somebody gives you an absolutist answer, you should be careful with that.”

Furthermore, he said, Overbeck’s statement is the voice of one German bishop and not of the Holy See.

And while “not perfect,” the U.S. military has actually had an “extraordinary record” in prosecuting human rights violations—relative to other countries, Perez said.

However, President Trump’s recent decision to pardon Eddie Gallagher—a Navy SEAL convicted and sentenced by a military jury last summer of posing for a picture with the corpse of a dead ISIS militant—did not help its reputation on the world stage, Perez said.

Pardoning known war criminals after a military judgment “tends to undercut the U.S. position that we should have primary jurisdiction to prosecute our own soldiers,” he said.

For his part, Overbrook said that since the U.S. government claims “it is the responsibility of the U.S. judiciary to take action against U.S. soldiers,” it “must go ahead and do so.”

Neither the U.S. bishops’ conference nor the U.S. Archdiocese of Military Services responded to requests for comment from CNA.



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American on trial for blasphemy killed at court hearing in Pakistan

July 31, 2020 CNA Daily News 1

CNA Staff, Jul 31, 2020 / 03:13 pm (CNA).- A U.S. citizen on trial for blasphemy in Pakistan was killed at a court hearing Wednesday, drawing strong objections to the country’s blasphemy laws from the U.S. State Department.

Tahir Ahmad Naseem was charged with claiming to be a prophet. He was being escorted by police in a courtroom in Peshawar, more than 100 miles west of Islamabad, when he was attacked and killed July 29.

Video shared on social media showed his body slumped over the seats in court, BBC News reports.

His attacker was arrested at the scene, and video shows him handcuffed and accusing Naseem of being “an enemy of Islam.”

Police are unsure how the attacker, named only as Khalid, acquired a gun in the courtroom. A police spokesman said he may have pulled the gun from a policeman’s holster, Agence France Prese reports.

The U.S. State Department said it was “shocked, saddened and outraged” by the killing.

“The U.S. government has been providing consular assistance to Mr. Naseem and his family since his detention in 2018 and has called the attention of senior Pakistani officials to his case to prevent the type of shameful tragedy that eventually occurred,” said State Department spokesman Cale Brown.

The State Department said he had been lured to Pakistan from Illinois.

Naseem was born into the Ahmadi sect, a marginalized group which faces persecution in Pakistan. However, an Ahmadi community spokesman said Naseem had left the sect and now describes himself as a prophet. The man in his YouTube videos claimed to be a messiah. The spokesman suggested he had been mentally ill, Agence France Presse reports.

In 2018 a Peshawar teenager named Awais Malik accused Naseem of blasphemy. Naseem, while living in the U.S., had begun speaking with him online.

Malik told BBC News he met Naseem in a shopping mall in Peshawar to discuss religion, and he then filed a case with police. Malik said he was not present at court and had no knowledge of the shooting.

The country’s blasphemy laws impose strict punishment on those who desecrate the Quran or who defame or insult Muhammad. Although the government has never executed a person under the blasphemy laws, accusations alone have inspired mob and vigilante violence.

The State Department urged Pakistan “to immediately reform its often abused blasphemy laws and its court system, which allow such abuses to occur.” It urged prosecution of the suspect in Naseem’s killing to the full extent of the law.

The Centre for Research and Security Studies reported that at least 65 people have been killed by anti-blasphemy vigilantes since 1990. According to the U.S. Commission on Interreligious Freedom, up to 80 people are imprisoned on blasphemy charges in Pakistan, and half of them face life in prison or the death penalty.

In 2018, the Supreme Court of Pakistan overturned the blasphemy conviction of Asia Bibi, a Catholic woman who was accused in 2009. Her initial conviction had also been upheld by the Lahore High Court.

The Ahmadi religious group self-identifies as Muslim, but many Muslims do not identify them as Muslim. The movement was founded in 1889 in British-ruled India. They consider their founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad a “subordinate prophet.” Other Muslims see this as a violation of the tenet that Muhammad was the last prophet.

There are about 500,000 Ahmadis in Pakistan and up to 20 million adherents worldwide. Some observers estimate the Ahmadi population in Pakistan is higher, but persecution encourages Ahmadis to hide their identity.

Both government authorities and mobs have targeted their places of worship. In October 2019, police in Punjab partially demolished a 70-year-old Ahmadiyya mosque, according to the 2020 report from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

In May Pakistan’s government declined to include the Ahmadi religious group in its National Commission for Minorities.

In January 2020, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia wrote to Pakistan’s prime minister on behalf of Philadelphia’s Pakistani Catholic community, encouraging him to shape a culture of religious freedom in the country.


The Dispatch

Leisure, the basis of life

July 31, 2020 Aquae Regiae 7

Since the Industrial Revolution, mankind has invented thousands, or perhaps even millions of labor-saving devices. We travel faster than ever before imagined over land, sea, and air. Most of the world, even in the most […]

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After AOC decries statue, Hawaiian Catholic says St Damien of Molokai ‘gave his life’ serving lepers

July 31, 2020 CNA Daily News 11

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 31, 2020 / 01:28 pm (CNA).- A Hawaiian Catholic catechist said that St. Damien of Molokai is a “hero” to the Hawaiian people, after a prominent congresswoman claimed the statue honoring him in the U.S. Capitol is part of colonialism and “patriarchy and white supremacist culture.”

St. Damien “gave his life” serving the isolated leper colony at Kalaupapa peninsula on the Hawaiian island of Molokai, said Dallas Carter, a native Hawaiian and a catechist for the diocese of Honolulu, in an interview with CNA.
“Any Hawaiian here who is aware of their history–which most Hawaiians are–would absolutely, Catholic or not, defend the legacy of Damien as a man who was embraced by the people, and who is a hero to us because of his love for the Hawaiian people,” Carter said.
“We did not judge him by the color of his skin. We judged him by the love that he had for our people,” Carter told CNA.
In an Instagram story on Thursday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) asked why there were not more statues honoring women historical figures, at the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall Collection. The collection includes statues honoring historical figures from all 50 states.
“Even when we select figures to tell the stories of colonized places, it is the colonizers and settlers whose stories are told – and virtually no one else,” Ocasio-Cortez posted, with a picture of Fr. Damien’s U.S. Capitol statue in the background.
In 1969, Hawaii chose to honor St. Damien alongside Kamehameha I in the National Statuary Hall Collection in the US capitol.
Ocasio-Cortez noted on Thursday that Hawaii’s statue was of Fr. Damien and not of “Queen Lili’uokalani of Hawaii, the only Queen Regnant of Hawaii,” implying that it was an example of “colonizers” being honored instead of historical figures who are native to states.
“This isn’t to litigate each and every individual statue,” she said, arguing that “patterns” among the “totality” of the statues in the Capitol reveal they honor “virtually all men, all white, and mostly both.”
“This is what patriarchy and white supremacist culture looks like!” Ocasio-Cortez said. “It’s not radical or crazy to understand the influence white supremacist culture has historically had in our overall culture & how it impacts the present day.”
Ocasio-Cortez’s office told CNA that “it’s the patterns that have emerged among all of the statues in the Capitol: virtually all white men. Each individual could be worthy, moral people. But the deliberate erasure of women and people of color from our history is a result of the influence of patriarchy and white supremacy.”
St. Damien of Molokai was a religious priest of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary who spent the last 16 years of his life caring for lepers in the Hawaiian Kingdom.
He was born Jozef De Veuster in Belgium in 1840, and he entered the Picpus Fathers in 1859, taking the name Damien. He was sent to the mission in Hawaii in 1864, and was ordained a priest that May.
Shortly after that, the Hawaiian government and King Kamehameha V passed a law mandating that lepers quarantine themselves in an isolated colony on the island of Molokai. The local bishop asked for volunteers to minister to the leper colony, and Fr. Damien presented himself, beginning his work there in 1873.
Carter noted that the Hawaiian government of the time “did not know how to deal with leprosy,” and that “no one wanted to deal with Kalaupapa [colony].”
Damien himself was afraid to go and minister to the lepers, Carter said, but “over a period of time—his journal is very clear, and the writings of the Hawaiian people in that town are very clear—that he fell in love with the people.”
Eventually, Damien was given an ultimatum by his religious superior to either leave the colony or remain there permanently. He chose to stay.
The priest served the colony for the rest of his life, attending to both spiritual and temporal needs of the lepers. By 1884 he had contracted leprosy, and he continued to minister until his death in 1889.
St. Damien is beloved by native Hawaiians, Carter said, and then-princess Lili’uokalani—who Cortez implied should be given a statue instead of Damien—made Fr. Damien a Knight Commander of the Royal Order of Kalākaua in 1881, for his “efforts in alleviating the distresses and mitigating the sorrows of the unfortunate.”
Damien is also the only priest-saint in the Hawaiian martyrology “that spoke the native Hawaiian language,” Carter said. “He loved the Hawaiian people, he embraced our culture,” he said, and in turn “he was part of our kingdom. he was one of us.”
The priest was canonized Oct. 11, 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI, who said that “his missionary activity, which gave him such joy, reached its peak in charity.”
On the occasion of the canonization, U.S. president Barack Obama expressed his “deep admiration for the life of Blessed Damien De Veuster.”
“Fr. Damien has also earned a special place in the hearts of Hawaiians. I recall many stories from my youth about his tireless work there to care for those suffering from leprosy who had been cast out,” Obama, who was born on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, said.
“Following in the steps of Jesus’ ministry to the lepers, Fr. Damien challenged the stigmatizing effects of disease, giving voice to the voiceless and, ultimately, sacrificing his own life to bring dignity to so many.”