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Vatican says refugee rights can require humanitarian intervention

The Holy See has told the United Nations that wars are responsible for the suffering of millions of refugees around the world, and the problems can only be solved by eliminating the root causes of the conflicts.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See's permanent observer to the United Nations in Geneva, appealed for "humanitarian intervention" in order to guarantee the fundamental rights of refugees.

He delivered that message last week when addressing a session of the Executive Committee of the Program of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

The rights accorded "to the refugees in international instruments too often remain mere words," Archbishop Tomasi told his audience.

"Continuing warfare still obliges numerous people to leave their homes because of fear of persecution, human rights violations, harassment and widespread violence with a systematic use of rape as a war tactic," he said.

"The cost of such forced movements is very high: the sufferings of people, the loss of lives, the process of eventually rebuilding society," said Archbishop Tomasi, a member of the Scalabrini Missionaries, who until recently was apostolic nuncio in Ethiopia and Eritrea.

"International human rights and humanitarian law oblige governments to provide for the security and well-being of all those under their jurisdiction," he said. "In particular, each citizen has a right to protection by his or her country. If however a state fails to or cannot take this responsibility, and the human rights of a population continue to be trampled upon, then the international community can and should assert its concern, step in and take on this obligation."

Intervention at Times Justified for Refugees' Sake, Vatican Tells U.N. (Zenit 11/10/04)

Vatican Calls for Respect of Immigrants' Rights (Zenit 11/10/04)
Vatican Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations

13 Oct 2004