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20 Years of the Second Protocol to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in Armed Conflict: Have All the Gaps Been Filled?

Published on May 29, 2019        Author: , and

Just over twenty years ago, on the 26th of March 1999, the Second Protocol to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (hereafter Second Protocol) was adopted. Following the Balkan wars, there was a sense that the 1954 Hague Convention, the key treaty protecting cultural property, was not entirely fit for purpose. It had for example left the concept of ‘imperative military necessity’ undefined, leaving too much leeway for interpreting the way it should be applied on the ground. The Second Protocol attempted to clarify this exception to the obligation to respect cultural property in armed conflict by narrowing its scope, i.e. only permitting an act of hostility against cultural property if that object was made, by its function, a military objective and if there is no feasible alternative available to obtain a similar military advantage (Art 6(a) Second Protocol). It added that the use of cultural property in a manner that puts it at risk of damage or destruction is only possible for as long as there is no other means to gain a similar military advantage (Art 6(b) Second Protocol). Finally, it added that only commanding officers may invoke ‘imperative military necessity’ (Art 6(c) Second Protocol).

Importantly, the Second Protocol devised a new form of additional protection. The system established under the 1954 Hague Convention allowing states parties to request ‘special protection’ for a limited range of buildings (refuges sheltering cultural objects from armed conflict, centres containing monuments, and other immovable cultural property of great importance) had not garnered much success. While the advantage to being placed under special protection is clear, with the property benefitting from immunity, i.e. that the States parties must refrain from any act of hostility against it and from any use of it or its surroundings for military purposes which could turn the property into a military objective, only Vatican City and a small number of refuges had been entered on the International Register of Cultural Property under Special Protection’ by the time the Second Protocol was being drafted. The Second Protocol tried to address the failure of the special protection system by replacing it with that of ‘enhanced protection’, which has the ability to encompass many more properties : any movable or immovable property can now be considered and there is no longer any requirement for the property to be situation at a sufficient distance from industrial centre or potential military objectives, a major obstacle to the listing of any property situated in or near a city (Art 10 Second Protocol). Read the rest of this entry…

Filed under: Armed Conflict
 
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