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Ratification by the United States of America of the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (The Hague, 14 May 1954)

On 13 March 2009, the United States of America deposited with the Director-General their instrument of ratification of the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.

The instrument contained the following declarations:

“(1) It is the understanding of the United States of America that “special protection”, as defined in Chapter II of the Convention, codifies customary international law in that it, first, prohibits the use of any cultural property to shield any legitimate military targets from attack and, second, allows all property to be attacked using any lawful and proportionate means, if required by military necessity and notwithstanding possible collateral damage to such property.
(2) It is the understanding of the United States of America that any decision by any military commander, military personnel, or any other person responsible for planning, authorizing, or executing military action or other activities covered by this Convention shall only be judged on the basis of that person’s assessment of the information reasonably available to the person at the time the person planned, authorized, or executed the action under review, and shall not be judged on the basis of information that comes to light after the action under review was taken.
(3) It is the understanding of the United States of America that the rules established by the Convention apply only to conventional weapons, and are without prejudice to the rules of international law governing other types of weapons, including nuclear weapons.
(4) It is the understanding of the United States of America that, as is true for all civilian objects, the primary responsibility for the protection of cultural objects rests with the Party controlling that property, to ensure that it is properly identified and that it is not used for unlawful purposes.”
[original : English]

The letter of transmission of this instrument contained the following request:

“The United States of America requests that this instrument of ratification be given immediate effect in accordance with the relevant provisions of Article 33(3) of that Convention.” [original : English]

Article 33 (3) reads as follows: “The situations referred to in Articles 18 and 19 shall give immediate effect to ratifications or accessions deposited by the Parties to the conflict either before or after the beginning of hostilities or occupation. In such cases the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization shall transmit the communications referred to in Article 38 by the speediest method.”

In accordance with the terms of Article 33 (3), the date of entry into force of this Convention with respect to the United States of America is 13 March 2009.


More information:


Author(s) Office of International Standards and Legal Affairs
Source UNESCO
Publication Date 23 Mar 2009
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