Saving the past, present and future : thoughts on mobilising international protection for cultural property during armed conflict
Pita J. C. Schimmelpenninck van der Oije
Armed conflict and international law : in search of the human face : liber amicorum in memory of Avril McDonald
The Hague : T.M.C. Asser Press, 2013
Bibliographie : p. 226-230
In this chapter, contemporary threats to cultural property during armed conflict as well as the obstacles hindering protection are discussed. Throughout the text, examples are taken from Libya where the so-called "Arab Spring" revolt of 2011 developed into an armed conflict. The focus is on the control system of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict because it offers warring parties, as well as states parties to the Convention, the option of mobilising protection during armed conflict. In practice, it has mainly been UNESCO that has undertaken cultural initiatives during armed conflict but the organisation is better suited for peacetime action. The 1999 Second Protocol to the 1954 Convention raised hopes that a supplemented control system would be more effective. In the case of Libya, however, neither the states parties nor the newly set up Intergovernmental Committee opted for combined protection efforts even though Libya hosts a wealth of cultural property and is a state party to the Second Protocol. UNESCO did undertake various protection activities and was joined by other actors in the cultural heritage field, such as the Blue Shield network. It is to be hoped that the Blue Shield network can raise its profile and resources, and combine flexibility of action with humanitarian professionalism. New developments in the area of information technology can also help in strengthening international protection efforts. The fact that a ‘Red Cross for cultural property’ is still urgently needed is an important lesson from the case of Libya. Whatever form future protection efforts will take, they should be based on the current framework offered by international humanitarian law. This will enhance transparency, uniformity of action and increase security for cultural property protectors during armed conflict.
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