Showing posts with label Hague Convention. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hague Convention. Show all posts

October 28, 2016

Looting Matters posting on the UK Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill

For nine years Professor David Gill’s blog Looting Matters has been the place to turn for thoughtful discussion of the archaeological ethics surrounding the collecting of antiquities.  As a Professor of Archaeological Heritage and Director of the Heritage Futures Research Unit at the University of Suffolk and a former Rome Scholar at the British School at Rome, as well as a Sir James Knott Fellow at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and holder of the 2012 Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) Outstanding Public Service Award recipient, it's safe to say that Dr. Gill has the credentials and expertise necessary to have an informed and measured opinion on the multiple threats facing our cultural heritage.

Dr. Gill has published widely on archaeological ethics, often with Dr. Christopher Chippindale (University of Cambridge).  Frequently on Looting Matters, as he has done today, he is the first in the heritage crimes field, to announce important news that we should all be paying attention to, often paces ahead of other researchers, including myself. 

Today Dr. Gill reminds us that on Monday, October 31, 2016 the Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill [HL] 2016-17 will have its 2nd reading in the UK’s House of Commons. 

In its current form, the Bill is an nobile effort to establish the United Kingdom's place as a champion for the world’s cultural heritage by introducing the domestic legislation necessary for the UK to meet the obligations contained in the Hague convention and its two protocols.   The bill seeks to introduce the necessary domestic legislation to enable the UK to finally ratify the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed
Conflict, a convention the UK signed in December 1954 and has been publicly committed to ratifying, along with its two Protocols since 2004. 

As of March 2016, 127 states are party to the Hague treaty, while 4 others (Andorra, Ireland, Philippines and the United Kingdom) have signed, but not ratified. Additionally, there are 104 States Parties to the First Protocol and 69 State Parties signatories to the Second Protocol

If passed this UK bill will not be retrospective and a person will be criminally liable only if they commit an offence after the commencement of the Bill. Part 2 will make it an offence to commit a serious breach of the Second Protocol, either in the UK or abroad.

To read up on this bill and its significance please see Dr. Gill's blog and the hyperlinks he has already posted.  While you are at it, I suggest you also follow his ongoing academic research here and perhaps take a look at his standing column "Context Matters" which he writes two times per year in the Journal of Art Crime speaking out about the material and intellectual consequences of heritage looting and illicit trafficking. 

By Lynda Albertson



May 14, 2016

Heritage Destruction in the Mediterranean Region

By Guest Editorial: Joris Kila, PhD
Cultural Adviser, The Hague Senior Researcher
Kompetenzzentrum Kulturelles Erbe und Kulturgüterschutz,
University of Vienna

This article is being released online in advance of publication in the IEMed Mediterranean Yearbook 2016 print issue. (www.iemed.org/medyearbook)

All over the news we see cultural property, the legal term widely used for cultural heritage, often connected to the cradles of civilisation, being damaged, smuggled and abused. Currently much devastation is taking place in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, more specifically the Mediterranean area, e.g. Syria, Iraq, Libya and Egypt. Within the size limitations of this article I will indicate some problems, causes and possible solutions regarding safeguarding cultural property. These examples will hopefully stimulate discussion, research and a more pro-active approach towards short and long-term solutions.

Problems and Deficiencies

Because of recent conflicts and upheavals, some of which are ongoing, substantial parts of the world’s cultural resources, which are not just artworks but also containers of identity and memory, have been lost or are under threat. In modern asymmetric conflicts, cultural property protection (CPP) is a complex and serious issue due to the variety of stakeholders with unbalanced interests, its multidisciplinary character and the potential sensitivity of heritage issues, which is often connected with local, national or religious identities. 

Since institutionalised CPP emergency activities as mandatory operations under national and international law are virtually absent, a small number of cultural experts, often acting as concerned private individuals without funding, took matters into their own hands to give a good example for official CPP institutions. This resulted in a modest number of relevant and innovative activities like undercover on-site emergency assessments and engagements with military stakeholders resulting, for instance, in cultural no-strike lists, as was used in Libya in 2011 and the development of CPP doctrines for military operational planning (Kila & Zeidler 2013, Kila & Herndon 2014).

Notwithstanding this, CPP should no longer be taken care of solely by the purview of this small group of concerned people. Phenomena like using cultural property to finance conflicts, iconoclasm, military aspects, CPP and global security, strategic communication (parties as protectors or destroyers of culture) and conflicting interests of old and new stakeholders need structural research and organisation. Furthermore, the links with identity, counterinsurgency, transnational organised crime and illicit trafficking, including its related transnational finance flows, heritage as a resource for local development and the overlap between cultural and natural resources need attention. Worldwide cooperation is also dependent on new stakeholders like military organisations, crime experts, tourism organisations and cultural diplomats. 

Although legal frameworks for heritage protection appear in place (e.g. The Hague 1954, the Rome Statute 1998), today’s state of cultural property in conflict areas clearly illustrates that the effectiveness of policies and strategies (to be) implemented by institutions tasked with CPP in the event of conflict are insufficient. Most institutions seem to lack pro-activity and tend towards bureaucratic and risk-avoiding behaviour (Wilson 1989, Kila 2012. Kila, Zeidler 2013). The latter relates to (over) politicising heritage because of sensitivity caused by identity, religion and economic issues. Consequently, essential developments concerning the changing status of heritage, its economic value, heritage protection as an instrument in counter-terrorism denying the enemy financial means to prolong a conflict and legal developments, e.g. the criminalisation of offenses against cultural property in international criminal law, are not studied in a coherent transdisciplinary context.

Organisations themselves claim lack of funding as a major reason for their indolence. In the meantime devastation continues, whereas the international cooperation, coordination and research that should drive transdisciplinary, interagency and emergency endeavours, as well as the necessary funding, is either lacking or misspent. In this context a recurring misconception is that although protection of heritage is important, aid to those in need because of conflicts and natural disasters should have priority. This line of argument does not hold water because one does not exclude the other. CPP and humanitarian aid are substantively and financially separate. No funds are withdrawn from monies allocated to humanitarian disasters when heritage is protected.

Europe and CPP

One could say that CPP including combating illicit trade in artifacts is not the specific capability of the EU. Certainly it is not stated per se in the treaties, but it does fall within several areas of EU competence. Examples of this are the internal market, freedom, security and justice (AFSJ) and culture along with common foreign and security policy (CFSP).

The EU probably has no CPP expertise capability but there are experts that can provide  knowledge on this. Stakeholders like NATO*,  Europol, INTERPOL and the International Criminal Court, all based in Europe, share identical problems (lack of cultural expertise and funding), so potentially this burden can be shared making it less costly and more efficient. An example: a potential step forward was made by creating the EU CULTNET,** in  theory a platform for networking, expertise and knowledge sharing. 

In 2015, the EU Parliament called on Member States to take necessary steps to involve universities, research bodies and cultural institutions in the fight against illicit trade in cultural goods from war areas. Instead of just calling the usual re-active institutions, and in an attempt to really act without delay, a task force including cultural experts with proven track records and strong networks is highly advisable. Such an entity can be created at short notice to provide expert advice for all stakeholders. Simultaneously Europe should start coordination, research and education regarding CPP and the implementation of (legal) instruments to safeguard cultural property.  Currently the  United   States  do more  than  Europe,  and unfortunately there is little cooperation with them on this topic; maybe this will change when Europe follows in taking responsibility for CPP in the context of conflicts.

The Mediterranean Region

Cultural heritage can suffer from multiple types of damage and offences related to conflict. Typical examples include collateral damage, vandalism, encroachment as part of development, iconoclasm and looting. In Libya and Syria all these phenomena occur simultaneously; Syria is already seriously affected and Libyan heritage is, for the most part, still under threat. 

Moreover, we should consider that, according to several sources, substantial numbers of artefacts looted and smuggled out of the Mediterranean region are likely hidden in secret depots. These will enter the market in the future. As the NY Times put it: "Long-established smuggling organizations are practiced in getting the goods to people willing to pay for them, and patient enough to stash ancient artifacts in warehouses until scrutiny dies down. ***

Some Case Examples

Syria

Many important sites, libraries, archives, churches and mosques in Syria were destroyed in 2015. All warring parties are guilty of devastation and illicit trade, but  IS  drew  the  most  attention. We all remember images of temples and graves in Palmyra being blown up by IS, not to mention the execution of Palmyrian archaeologist Khaled  al-Asaad in August 2015.

In Syria, we see the return of iconoclasm driven and legitimized as an excuse for eliminating perceptions of  heresy  as well  as the  'recycling' of antique monuments  originally  built  for defense, like Krak de Chevaliers, Palmyra's Fakhr-al-Din al-Ma'ani Castle or the destroyed Temple of Bel. Iconoclasm is not only directed at immovable heritage but also at written heritage making manuscripts and books equally at risk. 

The majority of today's warring parties are guilty of destruction intentionally or by accident while disregarding cultural  property's protected status under (inter)national laws. The increase in looting and illicit traffic of cultural property, the revenues from which are used to finance conflicts, implies that CPP can be a military incentive (force multiplier) denying the enemy the means to prolong a conflict. 

CPP should therefore be part of military operational planning processes (OPP). NATO could play a role in this, helped by cultural experts, by supplying CPP doctrine planning models to Member States. The ICC should investigate possibilities of prosecuting cultural war crimes in Syria through international criminal law and certain treaties that give the ICC jurisdiction in Libya. Cultural expertise is needed for organizations like the ICC and, therefore, funding has to be in place.

Libya

Present-day Libya is divided in two parts controlled by two rival 'governments ': in Tripoli and (recognized internationally) Tobruk. Negotiations are taking place under supervision of the United Nations to unite the country again. The latest news is the announcement of a new government of national accord temporarily based in Tunis. The Department  of Antiquities  in Tripoli is still active (January 2016) and has made urgent demands for international help in order to assess the nature  of the  threats  against  Libyan heritage in situ and to find simple and cheap solutions. 

Libya has five UNESCO World Heritage sites: the ancient Greek archaeological sites of Cyrene; the Roman ruins of Leptis Magna; the Phoenician port of Sabratha; the  rock-art  sites  of  the  Acacus Mountains in the Sahara Desert; and old Ghadamès, an oasis city. 

Sites like Leptis Magna are out in the open and exposed to all kinds of threats, especially theft and urban encroachment. The Benghazi area suffers from a lack of security, and Cyrene is not only threatened by looting, but  also by (illegal) commercial developments destroying precious heritage. 

At the end of 2015, pro-ISIL militants took temporary control of part of the town of Sabratha to free members seized by a rival militia. Libya's anti- government Islamic militants have aligned with IS and are active in the surrounding areas of Sabratha, which people fear will fall victim to iconoclasm and looting. 

Iconoclastic attacks have already taken place against Sufi tombs and mosques, amongst others, in Tripoli. Several international structures and organizations exist that could and should deal with CPP in Libya but they are not doing so (effectively) because they are (or feel) restricted often by their own governments, due to possible political implications.

Conclusions

Cultural heritage abuse and destruction are rampant. Old phenomena like iconoclasm are back in strength. Iconoclasm arose in Europe in the iconoclastic rage of 1566 in which the Calvinists destroyed statues in Catholic churches and monasteries. Apart from being driven by religious motives, the destruction of antiquities and cultural objects of heritage in the Mediterranean region seems to be used as a modern form of psychological warfare. Attacks on cultural heritage also show elements of cultural genocide and, as acknowledged by the United Nations, war crimes or even crimes against humanity.

Monuments and cultural objects stand for the identity of groups and individuals. lf you want to hurt a society or a nation at its heart or erase their existence from historical memory, then their cultural heritage is a grateful prey. The main concern is that there is presently no operational protection system being implemented based on international cooperation and coordination. Legal obligations and sanctions are not sufficiently implemented and enforced - for instance, cultural war crimes should be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court.  

Can we stop the destruction of our shared cultural heritage in the Mediterranean area? 

This is hard to say, but we, especially Europa, should now, more than ever, resist the dismantling of our shared identity and become pro­ active.

--Mr. Kila will be speaking at the Saint Petersburg Institute of Oriental Manuscripts Conference: "Facing the Chaos. Tangible and Intangible Heritage Protection in the XXI century" on May 19, 2016.




* Military organizations especially NATO do not have CPP expertise nor are they hiring experts to educate the military and to bring CPP into operational planning doctrines.
** Council Resolution 14232/12 of 4 October 2012 on the creation of an informal network of law enforcement authorities and expertise competent in the field of cultural goods  (EU CULTNET).
***Source www.nytimes.com/2016/01/10/world/europe/iraq-syria-antiquities-ielamic-etate.html?_r=O accessed on 20 January 2016. 

-----------------------

References

KILA J. and HERNDON C. "Military  involvement  in Cultural Property Protection: An Overview by Joris Kila and Christopher Herndon" in Joint  Forces Quarterly, JFQ 74, 3rd Quarter 2014 July 2014.

KILA J. and ZEIDLER JA "Military Involvement in Cultural Property   Protection   as   part   of   Preventive Conservation'  In   Cultural  Heritage in  the Crosshairs: Protecting Cultural Property during Conflict, Kila, J. and Zeidler, J. (Eds), Leiden­ Boston 2013. Conclusion, Joris D. Kila and James A. Zeidler ibid. Pp. 9-50 and Pp.351-353.

KILA J. Heritage under Siege. Military implementation of  Cultural  Property Protection following the1954 Hague Convention Leiden-Boston 2012.

WILSON J. Bureaucracy. What Government Agencies Do and Why They Do it, New York, 1989.

March 27, 2016

Fakhr-al-Din al-Ma'ani Castle and the Exigencies of War

Pre-Conflict Condition
Image Credit: Syrian Ministry of Tourism
The exigencies of war is oftentimes very unkind to mankind's cultural heritage, but especially so when its a historic battlement structure.  Fakhr-al-Din al-Ma'ani Castle, which sits on a high hill overlooking the UNESCO World Heritage Site of of Palmyra in Syria is thought to have been built by the Mamluks.

This newly-liberated castle gets its current name from the Lebanese Maanite Emir, Fakhr al-Din (1590 - 1635), who himself is believed to have occupied the castle strategically during wartime and having extended the present structure from an earlier castle which stood on the rocky outcropping, perhaps dating from the 12th century.

Fakhr al-Din used the castle for a military vantage point to defensively test the limits of Ottoman rule, having expanded his area of territorial control from Mount Lebanon to as far east as the deep Syrian desert. Things didn't turn out so well for al-Din either as he was ultimately captured and subsequently executed by the Ottomans in 1635.

In evaluating the impact of the the current conflict on Syria’s cultural heritage, especially the use of heritage with tactical value like the Fakhr-al-Din al-Ma'ani Castle, there is much to consider legally.

The term ‘armed conflict’ is context-dependent in that the criteria for determining the existence of an armed conflict differ according to whether the armed violence is one fought between two or more states.  An international armed conflict (IAC) is defined by criteria derived from Common Article 2 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions as being between one state and one or more organised non-state armed groups.  

A non-international armed conflict (NIAC) is defined by criteria derived from treaty law as well as key ad hoc tribunals.  The term is used when a situation of violence involves one or more organised non-state armed groups or between two or more such groups.  When a conflict is deemed to be a NIAC it triggers the application of the law of armed conflict (LOAC).  LOAC and international humanitarian law (IHL) are often used interchangeably.

Legal qualification of the armed violence in Syria: a non-international armed conflict (NIAC)

The extent and sustained nature of armed violence, and the level of organisation of the various non-state armed groups fighting against one another or the current Syrian governing authority, have defined the situation across Syria as an NIAC as an armed conflict of a non-international character as of 2012. (See the assessment made by the International Committee of the Red Cross --ICRC).

Under the Hague Convention, as an official state party to the Convention and the First Protocol, the Syrian government is obliged ‘respect’ cultural property in their or other territory. The Convention prohibits their targeting cultural property, unless it is of ‘imperative military necessity’, a term subject to differing interpretations.  When a site is exploited by non-State actors, in situations where those structures prove to be militarily strategic to the opposing force, state military actors are still obliged to take into consideration precisely what substantive content of international law does and does not apply if targeting the site during wartime.

The Second Protocol, which Syria is not a State Party to further elaborates the provisions of the Hague Convention relating to safeguarding of and respect for cultural property and the conduct of the military during hostilities.  Both the First and the Second Protocols lead to the question of applicability of customary international law, of other sources of international law and local law and what they require of waring parties.

The collection of images below show one example of how one heritage site, specifically one with battle attributes that are considered militarily valuable to waring factions, can become a cultural causality of war.

Whether that damage was ‘imperative military necessity’ is something that will be debated for years to come. 

Pre-Conflict Condition
Image Credit: Christophe Charon/AFP
Inside the structure there are several levels and numerous rooms.  The best (and also most vulnerable) Military vantage points are from from the highest terrace to the south.

Pre-Conflict Condition
Image Credit: Syrian Ministry of Tourism
Photo taken January 2011
Image Credit: @lucialessi
Post Conflict - Image Date March 26, 2016
Image Credit Syria DGAM
Post Conflict - Image Date March 26, 2016
Image Credit: Twitter User 

Post Conflict - Image Date March 26, 2016
Image Credit: Sham International
Images of the bridge, replacing the original drawbridge, which gives access over the moat to the castle gate.

2015 Image approaching Castle gate
Image Credit Da'esh
Post Conflict - Image Date March 26, 2016 I
Image Credit: Sham International
Post Conflict - Image Date March 25, 2016
Image Credit: Still from Drone Video Rossiya 24 TV







March 14, 2016

Another War's Cultural Cleansing and Rebuilding: Bosnia and the Destruction of Cultural Heritage

By Guest Author, Helen Walasek

With the deliberate attacks on historic monuments, archaeological sites and religious structures from mosques to monasteries now being enacted across Syria and Iraq, we should not forget the premeditated assaults on cultural and religious heritage in Bosnia-Herzegovina during the war of the 1990s, one of the most reported aspects of the conflict. 

Twenty years have passed since the end of the bitter 1992–1995 Bosnian War and the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement. In The Hague two of the principal architects of the conflict, former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić, and his military commander, Ratko Mladić, await judgement on war crimes charges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). 

Among those charges are the intentional destruction of cultural and religious heritage, a central element of the aggressive campaigns of ethnic cleansing that sought to create mono-ethnic / mono-religious territories within Bosnia-Herzegovina where once there had been diversity and coexistence. The destruction (usually far from the front-lines) was one of the defining features of a conflict that shocked the world. 

Smoke pours from the Vijećnica, the National Library of Bosnia Herzegovina
in Sarajevo after the shelling on the night of  25-26 August 1992. The photograph was a
prosecution exhibit at the ICTY. © ICTY

While the devastation provoked global condemnation, particularly attacks on iconic structures in cosmopolitan urban settings like the National Library (known also as the Vijećnica) in Sarajevo and Mostar’s Old Bridge (Stari Most), it was in towns and villages across wide swathes of ethnically-cleansed countryside where the destruction was worst, particularly of Bosnia’s Ottoman and Islamic heritage. Here some of the country’s most beautiful historic mosques, like the domed sixteenth-century Aladža Mosque in Foča and the the Ferhadija Mosque in Banja Luka were razed to the ground. 

Aladža Mosque See
Image Caption details
2a, 2b and 3 are found
at end ofthis article.

Orthodox and Catholic churches and monasteries were assaulted, too. The magnificent neo-Baroque Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Mostar was dynamited to rubble, the Franciscan Monastery at Plehan shelled, then blown up by a truck carrying two tons of explosives.

However, early hypotheses of an equivalent and mutual destruction of religious and cultural heritage by all three principal warring parties in the conflict (breakaway nationalist Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Croats and the Bosnian government – usually labelled ‘Muslim’) have not been supported by later assessments.  These identify Bosnian Serb forces and their allies (which controlled 70% of the territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina), and on a lesser scale Bosnian Croat forces, as the principal perpetrators of ethnic cleansing – and thus of the destruction of cultural and religious property. 

The Dayton Peace Agreement ended the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. One overarching aim was to attempt to reverse the effects of ethnic cleansing and restore the country to its prewar diversity. To those drafting the treaty, addressing the devastation to Bosnia’s cultural heritage was considered so essential to the peace process that Annex 8 of the eleven annexes to the Dayton Agreement provided for the formation of a Commission to Preserve National Monuments – a unique feature in any peace agreement.

But the post-conflict restoration of important historic monuments, particularly of iconic sites, were to become settings for the often competing agendas of both international and domestic actors. Meanwhile, surviving refugees and displaced people returning to reconstruct their communities in the places from which they had been violently expelled worked to a different dynamic. Here post-conflict restoration became closely bound up with ‘restoring’ feelings of security, a psychological yet literal ‘rebuilding’ of communities, yet which also came to encompass ‘hard law’ issues as obstacles to the right to reconstruct were challenged through legal remedies. 

Residents of Banja Luka stare at the remains of the 16th century Ferhadija Mosque
eliberately dynamited by the Bosnian Serb authorities in May 1993, more than a
year after the Bosnian War began. There had been no fighting in Banja Luka.
© Estate of Aleksander Aco Ravlić

The case of post-conflict Bosnia shows how, regardless of the aims of the peace process and the framework of the Dayton Peace Agreement (and the reasons that lay behind the destruction of cultural and religious property), when it came to reconstruction, the international community focused its attention almost entirely on restoring iconic sites like the Old Bridge at Mostar, predictably linking ‘restoration’ and ‘reconciliation’. Meanwhile, while in another domain, with frequently no help from international actors, returning communities attempting to rebuild and restore focused rather on human rights and freedom of religion.

What happened in Bosnia was to become a seminal marker and a paradigm of intentional cultural property destruction, not only among heritage professionals, but across disciplines from the military to humanitarian aid organisations in the years following the end of the war as they struggled to find answers to the questions raised by the inability of the international community in all its varied embodiments to prevent the destruction and where its representatives were frequently left as passive onlookers. 

The destruction in Bosnia-Herzegovina was to have a major impact in many spheres of heritage protection, not least the drafting and adoption of the Second Protocol to The Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, and was the prompt for the formation of the Blue Shield movement.

At the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the court’s prosecutions led to groundbreaking judgements that crystallized a more definitive recognition in international humanitarian law that intentional destruction of cultural property was not only a war crime in itself, but a manifestation of persecution and – crucially – that destruction of a people’s cultural heritage was an aspect of genocide.

Typical uses for the levelled site of a destroyed mosque: as a parking lot and space
for communal garbage containers and small kiosks. This site of the now
reconstructed Krpića Mosque in Bijeljina in 2001. © Richard Carlton

Yet despite all this, the literature on the destruction of cultural and religious property in Bosnia-Herzegovina and its worldwide impact has been remarkably slight. An exception is the glut of publications on Mostar and the reconstruction of the Old Bridge – itself symptomatic of the focus of the international community post-conflict restoration efforts. 

Bosnia and the Destruction of Cultural Heritage gives the first comprehensive overview and analysis of the destruction of the cultural heritage in Bosnia-Herzegovina during the 1992–1995 war. A case study and source book on the first significant destruction of European cultural heritage during conflict since World War Two, it seeks to assess questions which have moved to the foreground with the inclusion of cultural heritage preservation and protection as an important aspect of international post-conflict and development aid.

Examining responses to the destruction (including from bodies like UNESCO and the Council of Europe), the book discusses what intervention the international community took (if any) to protect Bosnia’s heritage during the war, as well as surveying the post-conflict scene. Assessing implementation of Annex 8 of the Dayton Peace Agreement and the use of other legal remedies, it looks also at the treatment of war crimes involving cultural property at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. 

Author: 

With contributions by: 

Publisher: 
Routledge (Ashgate), 17 April 2015, 
hardback, 430 pages, 
126 black and white illustrations and 1 map

============================

Image Captions:
2.a The 16th century Aladža Mosque in Foča, one of the most important Ottoman monuments in South East Europe, pictured before its destruction in 1992.

2.b Site of the Aladža Mosque in 1996. Both photographs were used as prosecution evidence of war crimes at the ICTY. © ICTY

3. Satellite images of the Aladža Mosque, Foča, taken in October 1991 where its minaret and dome can be clearly seen and the same site in August 1992 showing a rubble strewn space where the mosque had once stood. The pictures were used as prosecution evidence in war crimes trials at the ICTY. © ICTY

______________


1] Final report of the United Nations Commission of Experts, Annex IV The policy of ethnic cleansing. S/1994/674/Add.2 (Vol. I), 28 December 1994, Introduction; Sanitized [   ] Version of Ethnic Cleansing Paper, dated 5 January 1995. See also Ethnic Cleansing and Atrocities in Bosnia, Statement by CIA Deputy Director for Intelligence John Gannon, Joint SSCI SFRC Open Hearing, 9 August 1995, and numerous ICTY prosecutions www.icty.org/. While Bosnian government forces did commit grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, these assessments found that they had no policy of ethnic cleansing and did not engage in such operations.


November 4, 2015

Wednesday, November 04, 2015 - ,,, No comments

Recap: Erasing the Past: Da’esh and the Crisis of Antiquities Destruction

By: 
Mairead McAuliffe
Wellesley College
Class of 2016

On September 24, 2015, Wellesley College hosted a conference entitled, Erasing the Past: Da’esh and the Crisis of Antiquities Destruction. Jointly sponsored by the College’s History and Religious Studies departments, the conference hosted a group of international scholars, cultural heritage specialists and journalists who reflected on the scope of the continuing crisis in Iraq and Syria. The conference participants provided grounded and informative commentary on the Islamic State’s use of social media to circulate messages of violence, power and ruthlessness. The topics of the conference sessions provided attendees with a sense of the regions’ cultural devastation and ideas as to how the identities of these peoples can be protected and restored. 

I had the opportunity to attend two of the conference’s sessions. Professor Morag Kersel of DePaul University’s Anthropology Department presented on the topic of antiquity looting. She ultimately argued that preventing antiquity looting in the future would require behavioral change, as opposed to continued law enforcement. Kersel contended that advocacy campaigns have been successful in the past, such as the campaign to shame individuals who fashion animal skins and furs or collectors of ivory objects. She believes that society at large should render looting as antisocial behavior. According to Kersel, encouraging the general public to actively engage in this type of moral marketing would corrode the attractiveness of and participation in this trade. 

I also attended the presentation of Professor Patty Gerstenblith of DePaul University’s College of Law regarding the abilities and limitations of international law in the context of cultural heritage preservation  first multilateral treaties that addressed the conducts of warfare 

.  Professor Gerstenblith discussed the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907,  the first multilateral treaties that addressed the conducts of warfare negotiated at two international peace conferences at The Hague in the Netherlands.  The 1863 Lieber Code, signed by President Abraham Lincoln during the United States’ Civil War, guided these conventions and ultimately yielded regulations for wartime conduct that prohibited both the pillage, seizure and damage of cultural heritage and the requirement that sites be marked with a distinctive sign. 

Professor Gerstenblith highlighted, however, that the ratification of these treatises is voluntary, therefore many of these regulations are useless when not enforced, and war crime tribunals are only applied to the defeated – not to the victors. Professor Gerstenblith argued, therefore, that the most successful approaches to cultural heritage preservation involve the training of local people in the logistics of protection and the training of the military. 

I also had the opportunity to speak with some of the panelists during the conference lunch break. I asked the presenters what they believe to be missing from the mainline news outlets regarding the topic of cultural heritage protection in the Middle East. Professor Patty Gerstenblith and Charles Jones of Penn State University both agreed that accuracy and precision were missing from the discussion.  Jones lamented the fact that much of the looted material is undocumented, therefore the world will never know, nor will it see, objects that have been stolen or destroyed. He highlighted that such devastation negatively affects education and scholarship. 

Prof. Gerstenblith observed that the media is only interested if such devastation is linked to ISIS and its ruthless behavior. She stated that little emphasis is placed on art in times of war and oftentimes its destruction is excused for military purposes. She argued that the actions of ISIS in the Middle East constitute cultural genocide. The group’s leaders seek to “tear down reminders of the Assad Regime,” that is, their tangible national symbols. Dr. Salam al-Kuntar of the University of Pennsylvania’s Anthropology Department, offered similar sentiments saying that the media’s largest focus is on ISIS and its brutish behavior, as opposed to the state of Aleppo because its stories are “more of the same, there is nothing new to report.” 

I also asked what they would say if they had the ability to relay one thing about the Erasing the Past conference to the greater public. Professor Gerstenblith said that, if anything, this conference, with its abundance of panelists and sessions, highlights that this topic is “more complicated than we realize.” Charles Jones also commented on the variety of speakers saying that these events and discussions attract “new people each time” indicating a “raised consciousness” and the positive power of PR in escalating issues of cultural heritage protection. Finally, Dr. al-Kuntar said that this conference, among others, demonstrates the “efforts of academics and scholars in understanding the complexities of cultural heritage preservation.” 

Ultimately, the conference yielded productive conversation regarding all aspects of the intricacy of cultural heritage protection during times of crisis. The conference also exhibited the lack of clear protocol regarding actions that can be taken to achieve successful preservation. However, the passion, interest and intellect of the conference participants provide hope in the creation of such a protocol that would coordinate the protection not only of the material objects and symbols of a people, but also of the physical markers of culture, nation and identity.