Cultural property

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Wartime destruction, theft, pillage or misappropriation of cultural property is as old as armed conflict itself. Throughout history countless architectural structures of outstanding historic or artistic value, works of art and other cultural artifacts have been destroyed or plundered during warfare. The Roman destruction of Carthage, the German destruction of the Louvain library,the bombing of Yokohama, Tokyo, Rotterdam, London, Hamburg, Dresden and the irreplaceable monastery of Monte Cassino, the pillage of Jewish art during the Second World War, the use of historical sites in Lebanon, Iraq, Kosovo and Syria for military purposes, the deliberate shelling of the Old City of Dubrovnik (a World Heritage site), the burning of the Sarajevo library, the destruction of the Old Bridge of Mostar and the mausoleums in Mali, the looting of Iraq’s national museum and of the magnificent Roman mosaics of Apamea in Syria are only a few examples of the deliberate destruction of humanity’s cultural heritage in times of armed conflict. It is impossible to predict how many treasures future generations will be deprived of due to warfare.International legal protection of cultural property in armed conflict has developed in response to cultural disasters. The body of norms of the LOAC concerning cultural property grew gradually. Today several international legal instruments govern the protection of cultural property in armed conflict. A number of provisions of these instruments have entered the domain of international customary law.This chapter first briefly surveys the current state of international treaty law governing protection of cultural property in armed conflict and then canvasses the rules of customary international law on the subject. This is followed by consideration of the question of the definition of cultural property and then analysis of modes of cultural property protection. The difference between the rules applicable to international and non-international armed conflicts is also addressed. Finally, the chapter discusses the interaction between the LOAC concerning cultural property and international criminal law and pinpoints some issues emanating from this interaction.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRoutledge Handbook of the Law of Armed Conflict
EditorsRain Liivoja, Tim McCormack
Place of PublicationLondon UK
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9780203798362
ISBN (Print)9780415640374
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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