On September 25, 2008, the US Senate voted to become party to the 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. The 1954 Hague Convention was drafted by a host of nations, including the United States, following the rampant cultural destruction that occurred in Europe during World War II. The indiscriminate destruction wrought by German forces demonstrated the need for a new instrument to protect cultural property during military conflict and occupation. As a result of the affirmative vote of the Senate, the US will join 121 other nations in stressing the importance of protecting our world’s cultural heritage.
The Convention establishes terms meant to ensure the continued preservation of archaeological sites, historical structures, works of art, scientific collections and other forms of cultural property. These terms compel nations to curtail the theft and vandalism of artifacts, help preserve cultural property when occupying foreign territory, and avoid the targeting and use of cultural sites for military purposes.
The AAA was invited to sign onto written testimony in support of the ratification. The testimony—originally submitted by the Lawyer’s Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation, the Archaeological Institute of America, and the US Committee for the Blue Shield in July, 2008 before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee—reinforces AAA’s commitment to the preservation and protection of items of cultural and historical importance. The AAA has been engaged in cultural property issues over the years, and recently issued statements regarding the Iraq Cultural Heritage Protection Act and the National Historic Preservation Act.
Although the US is already party to the 1907 Hague Convention (IV) respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land and its Annex, ratification of the 1954 Convention further delimits the responsibilities of the US military, reinforces our nation’s commitment to cultural preservation, encourages the identification of cultural property, and improves our foreign relations. Such steps are crucial given the current military climate in the Middle East and the looting of the Iraq National Museum.
The written statement presented to the Senate may be downloaded at: http://www.culturalheritagelaw.org/advocacy/1954%20Hague%20Testimony.doc
Readers may also view the text of the 1954 Hague Convention at: http://www.icomos.org/hague/hague.convention.html