A new international instrument to enhance the protection of cultural property in times of warThe Second Protocol to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in Event of Armed Conflict, reinforcing the protection of cultural heritage in times of war, enters into force today. This follows the accession of Costa Rica to this new legal instrument, which now has the required number of 20 States Parties to take effect.*
The Protocol, adopted at The Hague in March 1999, reinforces the 1954 Hague Convention and its First Protocol. It reaffirms the “immunity” of cultural property in times of war or occupation and establishes the “individual criminal responsibility” of perpetrators of crimes against culture. It also insists on the need to take preparatory measures in peacetime to protect such property in times of war.
“It is, unfortunately, more important than ever today to protect cultural property in times of war. Given its deeply symbolic value, belligerents too often make it a deliberate target for acts of pillaging, destruction and vandalism,” said UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura, who encouraged those Member States that have not yet ratified the Convention and its two Protocols to do so. Mr Matsuura welcomed the fact that the Second Protocol “comes into force just as the international community is celebrating the half-century of the Convention’s existence.”
Another new element in the Second Protocol is that it partially limits the notion of “imperative military necessity”, which authorizes waivers regarding cultural property. The text also provides for the creation of an Intergovernmental Committee composed of 12 States Parties that will essentially be tasked with monitoring the implementation of the Convention and its two Protocols. The Committee will be able to grant certain cultural property “of the greatest importance for humanity”, “enhanced protection”.
The Hague Convention currently has 108 States Parties. The First Protocol, adopted in 1954, has 87 States Parties and refers specifically to movable cultural property. It forbids the export of cultural property from an occupied territory, requires the return of such property to the territory of the State from which it has been removed, and forbids cultural property being retained as war reparations.
*Costa Rica joins 19 States which have already ratified or acceded to the Second Protocol: Argentina, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Honduras, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Lithuania, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Qatar, Serbia and Montenegro, and Spain.