UNESCO Director-General condemns military presence and destruction at World Heritage Sites in Syria
20 February – In the face of a deteriorating situation inside Syria, the UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, made the following statement :
"The situation in Syria is deteriorating at a rapid pace with incalculable human suffering and loss. Syria’s unique cultural heritage is also subject to tremendous destruction from the conflict. To date, three UNESCO World Heritage Sites -- Palmyra, the Crac des Chevaliers, and Aleppo including the Aleppo Citadel -- are being used for military purpose and this raises the risk of imminent and irreversible destruction, in addition to that which these sites have already suffered.
This presence constitutes an infringement of the rights of the Syrian people. Damage to cultural heritage is a blow against the identity and history of the Syrian people - it is a blow against the universal heritage of humanity. I appeal for the swift removal of all military presence from cultural sites, in respect of international obligations of all parties involved in the conflict.
I appeal to all parties to the conflict in Syria to abstain from using for any military purpose cultural property or their immediate surroundings, in order to avoid exposing such property to further destruction or damage. This obligation is codified in the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict – the only international agreement of universal vocation focused exclusively on the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict – it is also consistent with customary international humanitarian law. All this must be part of wider efforts to end violence, to protect human life and move to peace. I join my voice to that of the international community to call for a positive outcome of the negotiation efforts underway."