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U.N. Torture Watchdog Urges Vatican To Pursue Sex Criminals

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GENEVA, May 23 (Reuters) - The United Nations torture watchdog called on the Vatican on Friday to cooperate with civil authorities in prosecuting all cases of suspected sexual abuse by pedophile priests and to set up its own independent complaints mechanism.

It was the second time this year that a U.N. human rights body has criticized how Roman Catholic officials have handled the decades-long sexual abuse of minors by priests.

Victims accuse the Vatican of still protecting abusers and covering up sex crimes, failing to punish perpetrators, refer them to the authorities or provide adequate compensation.

The Vatican told the committee last week the Church's accusers were "fossilized in the past" when attitudes were different. Archbishop Silvano Tomasi said the Church had developed model child protection policies over the last decade that other states and institutions might emulate.

The U.N. Committee against Torture, which examined the Holy See's record earlier this month, said Vatican officials should monitor priests and "stop and sanction" conduct that violates the U.N. treaty against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. The pact is known as the CAT.

It rejected the Vatican's position that the Holy See has jurisdiction only in the tiny Vatican City State.

Any priest suspected of committing sexual abuse should be immediately suspended from his duties pending investigation and should not be transferred to another diocese to avoid punishment, it said.

The Vatican should "take effective measures to ensure that allegations received by its officials concerning violations of the Convention (against Torture) are communicated to the proper civil authorities to facilitate their investigation and prosecution of alleged perpetrators."

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