Yugoslavia promises to punish attacks against cultural property in wartimeParis - The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia has pledged to set up legal procedures to punish attacks on cultural property in wartime by signing of the Second Protocol of the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, otherwise known as the Hague Convention.
UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura, who received the signature in Belgrade last August 27, called today on all countries that had not yet done so to sign the Protocol, which was adopted on March 26, 1999 at a diplomatic conference convened by UNESCO.
"The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was the 15th country* to become party to this new legal instrument," he noted, "and the second former Yugoslav republic to sign. I am pleased about this because it helps create a climate of confidence in the region. I hope it will encourage many other countries to do the same."
Wars have always brought total or partial destruction of irreplaceable cultural heritage such as monuments, archaeological sites, works of art, rare books, archives and museums. To try to reduce these losses, the international community adopted the Hague Convention in 1954, to which was added a First Protocol banning the export of cultural property from occupied territories.
But the agreement proved hard to enforce. Apart from causing very heavy human and material losses, the international conflicts and civil wars of the past half-century have led to the destruction of a huge amount of cultural heritage, often deliberately targeted, as seen in former Yugoslavia, Cambodia and Afghanistan, among others.
This is why, in the 1990s, UNESCO deemed it necessary to add a Second Protocol to the Hague Convention. This Second Protocol reinforces the legal responsibility of those who destroy cultural property. In other words, a soldier or other official who attacks or orders an attack on a protected monument could be arrested, extradited and tried, if necessary before an international court.
The Protocol also applies to civil wars. It also allows for the establishment of an Intergovernmental Committee to provide extra protection for some cultural property and to monitor implementation of the Protocol. The committee will have access to a special voluntary fund which could be used, for example, to provide emergency help when needed. UNESCO will provide the secretariat for this Committee.
Only 15 countries have so far signed the Second Protocol, five short of the 20 needed for it to go into effect. The Hague Convention has been signed by 103 States Parties.
* The 14 other signatories are Argentina, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, El Salvador, Libya, Lithuania, the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia, Nicaragua, Panama, Qatar and Spain.
Contact: Sophie Boukhari
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