The protection of cultural property during armed conflict: the role and responsibilities of the international community
Cultural property refers to "movable or immovable property of great importance to the cultural heritage of every people" and can refer to historical monuments, archaeological sites, or works of art, to name a few examples (1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, Art. 1). The deliberate targeting and destruction of cultural property has become emblematic for the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS). Devastation to parts of the ancient city of Palmyra and the Temple of Baal as well as to Assyrian and Akkadian statutes in the Mosul Museum include a few of the most recent examples. Despite international legal instruments in place to protect cultural property in times of armed conflict – among those most prominently the 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its two Protocols - its destruction continues unabatedly. The edifice of the law of armed conflict governing the protection of cultural property is state-centric. This means that Contracting State Parties have the primary obligation to respect and safeguard cultural property within their State territory and whenever they engage in armed conflict outside of their territory. The second Protocol to the 1954 Convention, adopted in1999, extends protection to internal armed conflicts. It is reasonable to argue that the emergence of armed non-state actors, referring to organised armed groups that operate outside the control of a State, was not anticipated and presents a complex legal challenge for the protection of cultural property. The preamble of the 1954 Convention proclaims that "damage to cultural property belonging to any people [...] means damage to the cultural heritage of all mankind." This PhD project builds on the notion that the protection of cultural property implies a universal interest and examines the role and responsibility of the international community in ameliorating the protection of cultural property in armed conflicts involving non-state actors.