This article looks at the legal framework applicable to the direct targeting of cultural heritage sites in Syria and Iraq under a double perspective: the obligations and responsibility of the Syrian Arab Republic, and eventually other foreign States involved in the hostilities; and individual criminal responsibility arising for the perpetrated acts of destruction of cultural heritage. In the view of the author, the legal framework regarding States’ obligations is sufficiently developed, but the possibility for States to waive the obligation prohibiting direct attacks against cultural objects if imperative military necessity requires is potentially detrimental to effective enforcement. Regarding international criminal responsibility, relevant customary international crimes have to be examined in the light of the practice of domestic and international criminal tribunals. The author provides a brief assessment on the applicable Syrian and Iraqi criminal law and discusses the possible ways to prosecute the most responsible under international criminal law.
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