The International Criminal Court in the Hague has been asked to investigate Pope Benedict and three cardinals for alleged crimes against humanity, for what they have described as the cover-up of clerical abuse.
Ten victims and attorneys from the Center for Constitutional Rights, a non-profit group based in New York, delivered a detailed complaint against the Pope and Vatican officials on Tuesday, which accuses them of maintaining a "long-standing and pervasive system of sexual violence".
“The high-level officials of the Catholic church who failed to prevent and punish these criminal actions,” the complaint states, “have, to date, enjoyed absolute impunity.”
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Pope Bendict, Cardinal William Levad, leader of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State and his predecessor Cardinal Angelo Sodano, have all been named in the complaint.
Pam Spees, spokeswoman for the New York group, said that the men were "responsible for rape and other sexual violence and for the physical and psychological torture of victims around the world both through command responsibility and direct cover up of crimes".
"They should be brought to trial, like any other officials guilty of crimes against humanity," she added.
The Vatican declined to comment on the complaint.