Protected: The 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property During Armed Conflict
Intentional Destruction of Cultural Property Without Imperative Military Necessity is Considered a War Crime. Military leaders have been prosecuted under the earlier Hague Conventions and under customary international law for the targeting and destruction of cultural property when not justified by imperative military necessity. For example, in the aftermath of the Balkan wars of the 1990s, the Serbian General Pavle Strugar was convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia for various crimes, including "the destruction or willful damage of institutions dedicated to religion, charity and education, the arts and sciences, historic monuments and works of art and science" in connection with the shelling of the Old Town of Dubrovnik, which is a World Heritage List property. Strugar was sentenced to eight years in prison. Miodrag Jokic, the last commander of the Yugoslav Navy, pleaded guilty to similar charges, including attacks on civilians, devastation, unlawful attacks on civilian objects and the intentional destruction of cultural properties in Dubrovnik. He was sentenced to seven years in prison.
Approved Use of the Blue Shield.
The Blue Shield is the internationally recognized symbol that identifies cultural property that is subject to protection, or persons engaged in protecting cultural property, during armed conflict.
However, marking with the Blue Shield Emblem is not an absolute requirement; failure to display the Emblem does not, by itself, indicate that a site or structure is not cultural property. Proper use of the Blue Shield is defined in Article 16 and Article 17 of the 1954 Hague Convention.
Three Blue Shields in this type of array designates: (a) cultural property under special protection; (b) vehicles or personnel used in the transport of cultural property; or (c) improvised or emergency refuges or safe locations where cultural property may be stored during armed conflict.
Prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the staff at the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad painted a giant Blue Shield symbol on the roof of the museum. As a result, the Museum was included on USCENTCOM's "no strike" list and was not subjected to aerial or ground attack, despite the fact that: (a) the Museum was located across the street from a known Republican Guard barracks, which was a violation of the 1954 Hague Convention prohibition against placing military equipment or installations at or near a protected cultural property; and (b) the Museum was used as a firing position by Iraqi forces for a brief period during the assault on Baghdad, which violated the Convention's prohibition against making first use of a cultural property for military purposes. (Photo of rooftop courtesy Dr. John Malcolm Russell).
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