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Unformatted text preview: 91 Targeting Cultural Property: The Role of International Law 5 Ashlyn Milligan is a Master of Arts candidate at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carlton University. T ARGETING C ULTURAL P ROPERTY : T HE R OLE OF I NTERNATIONAL L AW Ashlyn Milligan Oftentimes the exigencies of war necessarily take primacy over the preservation of cultural property, but emerging norms and sentiments within the international community have signaled an increased desire on the part of states to preserve, for posterity, the cultural heritage of mankind. Thus, the critical question becomes: how do states balance these seemingly irreconcilable ends, and to what extent is the current state of the international legal regime able to facilitate an adequate response to the protec- tion of cultural property during an armed conflict? This paper will examine current examples drawn from conflicts in Iraq, the Balkans, and Afghanistan in order to expound these questions and discuss in greater detail some of the factors that underpin the decisions made by states when they either deliberately target or are required out of military necessity, to use cultural property in armed conflict. This article will assess the ability of international law to address and mitigate the deleterious effect of these motivations before making several recommendations for international policy. I NTRODUCTION The targeting, destruction, and plunder of cultural property during armed conflict – either as incidental to the exigencies of war or as deliberate acts in and of themselves – has an extremely long history. Damage and looting during the Crusades represent some of the earliest accounts of the vulner- 92 Ashlyn Milligan ability of cultural property during warfare (Boylan 2002, 43), while the destruction of politically potent reminders of the Royalist regime in the French Revolution demonstrates the symbolic value inherent in such objects. During the late 17 th and early 18 th centuries, Napoleon was renowned for his theft of art and antiquities in conquered lands, returning to France with his “spoils of war.” These examples serve to highlight the contentious role cultural property plays in armed conflict, and that the conquest and of an enemy can rest on more than just military defeat. Although the legal implications of some of these issues began to be articulated throughout the 19 th century, it was not until the widespread destruction and looting of art during World War II that serious consid- eration of the inadequacies in international law were brought to the fore. Since then, the protection of cultural property during armed conflict has emerged as a specialized legal regime with increasing relevance, as recent conflicts and rampant destruction of cultural property in Iraq, the Balkans, and Afghanistan have demonstrated. Indeed, the breakdown of order that results from war places cultural property in a particularly vulnerable position, and has directly led to the codification of these legal norms in...
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- Fall '11
- International Law, World Heritage Site, Laws of war, Geneva Conventions, cultural property