In war, individuals are vulnerable not only physically but also in terms of their cultural identity, and the obliteration of cultural heritage often becomes a central issue. This is particularly the case in armed conflicts with an ethnic, cultural or religious character. In some regions, cultural heritage consists more of monuments and objects; it is a “tangible” heritage, mostly protected by the law of armed conflict. Elsewhere, where structures are impermanent, cultural heritage is mainly expressed through orality, gestures, rituals, music and other forms of expression that individuals create using various media and instruments. Such heritage is mainly “intangible”. This essay aims to show that cultural heritage is both tangible and intangible, and that the law which protects such heritage is not limited to the law of armed conflict. Cultural heritage also benefits from the protection of other applicable instruments, such as human rights treaties and the UNESCO cultural heritage conventions.
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