The deliberate destruction by ISIS of religious and cultural property in both Syria and Iraq sparked widespread international condemnation and was described by UNESCO’s Director-General as constituting war crimes. Regrettably, the damage to and destruction of such property has become an all too common feature of the conflicts that have engulfed both States. The authors examine the legal obligations that apply to the parties in non-international armed conflict and the consequences of non-compliance. In light of the scale of the human suffering engendered by the conflicts, the authors first ask why international law protects such property in armed conflict.
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