Protecting Cultural Property during Armed Conflict in Syria

Dr. Fatima Al-Dhabeiri
Faculity Member
Department of International Law – College of Law – Kuwait University


Cultural property has often been demolished and looted during armed conflicts; this type of crime is being evident during the armed conflict in Syria, where extremist groups seriously targeted historical and archaeological sites. This research deals with the legal protection of cultural property during Syria’s civil war, which is considered a form of non-international armed conflict.
During this type of armed conflict, a question that usually arises is whether non-state armed groups can be compelled to respect the rules of international law in general and the rules of cultural property protection in particular. The current research examines the rules of international law that protect cultural properties during armed conflicts, focusing mainly on the responsibility of the conflict parties during armed conflicts of non-international nature.
The research reviews the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its protocols to determine the responsibility of each of the conflict parties. It also examines the provisions of international custom that recognizes the protection of cultural property during armed conflicts, which in turn obligates all parties, even those not considered parties to the relevant international conventions. Finally, it addresses Security Council resolutions that condemn violations of cultural property in Syria and impose international obligations to protect it. This system of rules emphasizes the determination of the international community to protect the cultural heritage which belongs to people and all humanity. However, the continuation of destructive operations against cultural property requires further solutions.
The research concludes that there are legal loopholes which should be plugged through the activation of existing legal provisions, as well as the formulation of detailed legal rules designed to counteract terrorist operations targeting cultural property.

Keywords: The Hague Convention, Cultural Cleansing, International Custom, Civil War, UNESCO.

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