“Declaration on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict” to be unveiled at WAC-7 in Jordan

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Amid the many discussions that will take place at the Seventh World Archaeological Congress (January 13-18 , 2013) being held at the King Hussein Convention Centerat the Dead Sea in Jordan, under the royal patronage of His Majesty King Abdullah II Bin Al Hussein of Jordan an important four-session series titled “Archaeology as a Target” will begin on January 14, 2013. with a forum entitled “The Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and Civil-Military Cooperation: Lessons Learned from a Civil Perspective,” organized by Professor Friedrich T. Schipper (University of Vienna) and professor Patty Gerstenblith (DePaul University College of Law).

During the forum, Professors Gerstenblith and Schipper will propose a “Declaration on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict” to the Assembly at the Plenary Session and invite serious contributors to review the text and submit comments via this website link.

The fifteen recommendations included the draft text could hardly be more relevant or complete:

1. In regard to the damage to cultural property in the most recent conflicts, e.g. in Syria, Mali and other countries around the world, WAC expresses its serious concern at the ongoing disregard by States as well as conflict parties, state and non-state, of the instruments of international humanitarian law and subsequent principles to protect cultural property.

2. WAC states that intentional destruction of the cultural property of others – constituting a basic tangible aspect of cultural heritage and identity – is increasingly becoming a central element and high priority target in armed conflicts, and the cultural cleansing of whole regions as a prime goal of warfare, which has to be considered as an aspect of ethnic cleansing and a crime in terms of international humanitarian law.

3. WAC calls on all States to ratify the various instruments of international humanitarian law to protect such cultural property, above all the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (The Hague 1954) and its two Protocols (1954 and 1999) as well as the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (Paris 1970) and others; to swiftly and efficiently implement them into national legislation and in the sense as originally intended by the conventions, and to observe and enforce them.

4. WAC calls on non-state actors involved in armed conflicts to observe the principles of these international conventions and of customary international law; to respect the cultural property of others, and to refrain from negligently or intentionally destroying or damaging cultural property during conflict.

5. WAC voices its concern about the increasing use by States of private military/security companies in armed conflicts and calls on such States as well as on above said companies to ensure that the principles of international law in general, and such international law concerning cultural property protection in particular, are observed by such companies.

6. WAC reminds individuals as well as conflict parties – state and non-state actors including private military/security companies – that destruction of cultural property has served as a basis for criminal tribunal prosecutions following both World War II and the Yugoslav Wars and that destruction of cultural property in armed conflict will continue to serve as a basis for criminal prosecution.

7. WAC calls on the United Nations to include the principles of cultural property protection in the authorization of any forces deployed under UN mandate; to ensure that cultural property protection is integrated into all Rules of Engagement of forces deployed under UN mandate; to require pre-deployment training in cultural property protection of such forces in general, and of their officers in particular, deployed under UN mandate, and to create the position of expert/liaison officers for cultural property protection in such forces deployed under UN mandate. WAC calls on States that participate in missions under UN mandate to do their utmost to preserve cultural heritage in the areas subject to this mission. WAC further calls on other multinational, international, intergovernmental, supranational etc. treaty organizations, under whose auspices forces may be deployed into conflict areas, to adopt the same principles listed here.

8. WAC calls on the United Nations to explicitly prohibit trade in cultural materials illegally removed from all areas of conflict and occupation (as it did during the Iraq war of 2003).

9. WAC calls on all States and actors – considering the Second Protocol to the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict – to refrain from any interference with cultural heritage – that is to refrain from cultural property preservation, conservation, renovation, archaeological excavation and other forms of such work – in occupied territories, except where strictly required for salvage purposes.

10. WAC calls on all nations and actors to respect the pluralistic religious and cultural heritage of their regions and, in particular, to preserve historic structures, religious buildings and other forms of cultural property of minority groups located within their territory.

11. WAC calls on market nations – considering the First Protocol to the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and Article 11 of the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property – to prohibit the import of cultural objects from areas subject to armed conflict and military occupation and – further considering the principles of the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property – to prohibit the import in any way of cultural objects whose provenience is not clearly and thoroughly proven according to best practice international standards.

12. WAC calls on all States that suspended their funding of UNESCO to resume its funding, which constitutes the basic requirement for the fruitful and pacifying work of UNESCO in general and its cultural heritage work in particular.

13. WAC calls on all States Parties to the Second Protocol to the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and moreover to all States Parties to the said Convention to regularly and substantially meet their obligation to contribute to the Fund for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict established in Article 29 of the Second Protocol.

14. WAC calls on all scholars, in particular its members, to study the instruments of international law that protect cultural property, to consider them in their scholarly work where appropriate, to promote them within their communities and towards the governmental authorities in their home countries, and to carefully and responsibly use them and to refrain from abusing them in a polemic mode.

15. WAC invites all scholars, in particular its members, to actively get involved in UNESCO affiliated NGO-work fostering cultural property protection whenever and wherever feasible and appropriate, in particular via ICOM, ICOMOS, and Blue Shield.

SAFE applauds this galvanizing thought-provoking effort. We eagerly await the final Declaration and the reception by WAC-7 participants and the world at large.

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