Wars, confrontations and conflicts in general, between two or more opposing factions, have always represented a serious threat to the integrity of cultural heritage located in their territories. Unfortunately, this threat often materializes in the form of the destruction of significant amounts of cultural property (movable and immovable): monuments, religious sites, museums, libraries, archives, etc. Humanity is thus deprived of a shared and irreplaceable cultural heritage. This threat also materializes in the form of the pillaging of cultural property proclaimed as “spoils of war”.
In the objective of protecting cultural heritage in times of armed conflict, the international community adopted the following instruments:
- The 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict encourages States to adopt peacetime protective measures for the safeguarding of cultural property. The Convention sets out a minimum level of protection, which all States Parties must respect in times of conflict and occupation. The Convention also requires States Parties to implement criminal sanctions for violations of the Convention and encourages States Parties to promote the Convention. Finally, it creates a form of protection (called “special protection”) for cultural property.
- The 1954 First Protocol, which prohibits the export of movable cultural property from an occupied territory and requires its return to the territory of the State from which the property was exported. The Protocol also prohibits the retention of cultural property as war reparations.
- The 1999 Second Protocol, which strengthens provisions of the Convention, especially the provisions regarding the safeguarding of cultural property and conduct during hostilities. It also creates a greater form of protection (called “enhanced protection”) for cultural property of the greatest importance for humanity. The 1999 Second Protocol also defines sanctions triggered by serious violations against cultural property. Finally, this Protocol creates an institutional element: the Committee for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.
To learn more about the Convention and its two Protocols: