The Geneva Convention (1949) contains certain provisions that specifically forbid intentional or gratuitous damage to undefended cultural heritage by invading or occupying forces. It prohibits Pillage: State Parties must act to prevent or, if it has commenced, to stop individual pillage, and may not conduct or authorize organised pillage. Article 53 clearly forbids the destruction of all property (real or personal), whether private or State, religious or other.
It is supplement by two further Protocols (1977) which contain important provisions relating specifically to protection of cultural property. They:
- prohibit attacks against cultural property.
- prohibit the use of cultural property in support of the military effort.
- prohibit to make cultural property the object of reprisal without exception for military necessity.
In addition, Additional Protocol I confirms that cultural property falls within civilian objects as it is not a military objective. Additional Protocol I then:
- prohibits attacks on civilian population and civilian objects (such as cultural property), restricting the lawful object of attack to military objectives.
- narrows the definition of a military object.
- outlaws excessive incidental harm to the civilian population and civilian objects.
These rules are mostly backed by penal sanctions (O’Keefe, 2006).
Other relevant additional protocols are the 1980 Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Mines, Booby-Traps and Other Devices and the amendments of 1996. It forbids in all circumstances the use of booby-traps and of certain other devices which are in any way attached to or associated with historic monuments, works of art or places of worship.
To see the full text and articles of the Geneva Convention and its Additional Protocols, click here.