Symposium : The Human Dimension of International Cultural Heritage Law

The Criminalization of Offences against Cultural Heritage in Times of Armed Conflict: The Quest for Consistency


This article undertakes a comparative analysis of the two main international legal instruments providing for offences against cultural property and cultural heritage in times of armed conflict in order to assess existing gaps and lacunas, and to make suggestions on how better to advance the protection of cultural property through international criminal law. The International Criminal Court Statute takes a very retrograde attitude to this kind of crime – which the author calls the civilian-use approach – whereas the Second Protocol to the 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in Times of Armed Conflict seems far more innovative, preferring a cultural-value oriented approach. The author concludes that the latter approach is more appropriate and that, at present, the most effective tool for pursuing war crimes against cultural property is Protocol II to the 1954 Hague Convention. It is thus crucial to promote ratification by a large number of states and to encourage states to adopt implementing legislation that may allow domestic judges to prosecute the most serious crimes against cultural heritage on the basis of jurisdictional criteria provided for in Protocol II to the 1954 Hague Convention.

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