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Dismissing Catholic abuse victims’ lawsuit, European Court of Human Rights rules Vatican cannot be sued in European courts

It was the ECHR’s first case to deal with the immunity of the Holy See, the court said.

A group of 24 Belgian, French and Dutch abuse survivors attempted to sue the Holy See and Catholic Church leaders in Belgian courts beginning in 2011, but courts in that country ruled they did not have jurisdiction over the Vatican, the European Court of Human Rights said Tuesday in explaining its ruling.

The abuse survivors fought their way up through the Belgian court system before bringing their suit to the European court in 2017, the ECHR said.

On Tuesday, the ECHR ruled 6-1 that the Vatican was a sovereign state that could not be sued, and that there had been nothing “unreasonable or arbitrary” in the Belgian courts’ adopting that position.

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