British public protests over Pontiff's visit
Published 05/04/2010 | 05:00
Protests are growing against Pope Benedict XVI's planned trip to Britain.
More than 10,000 people have signed a petition on Downing Street's website against the Pope's four-day visit to England and Scotland in September, which will cost British taxpayers an estimated £15m (€17m).
Lawyers in Britain are now questioning whether the Vatican's implicit statehood status should shield the Pope from prosecution over sex crimes by paedophile priests.
Although Pope Benedict has not been accused of any crime, lawyers are now examining if he should have immunity as a head of state and if he could be prosecuted under the principle of universal jurisdiction for an alleged systematic cover-up of sexual abuses by priests.
Universal jurisdiction -- a concept in international law -- allows UK judges to issue warrants for nearly any visitor accused of grievous crimes, no matter where they live.
British judges have been more open to the concept than those in other countries.
Israeli officials, including former prime minister Ehud Barak, have recently been targeted by groups in Britain under universal jurisdiction.