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International criminal law as a tool for enhancing the protection of cultural heritage


International law provides both for State responsibility and individual criminal liability for the destruction of cultural property in the event of armed conflict. In this respect, relevant provisions are incorporated in the Statutes of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and of the International Criminal Court (ICC). On the other hand, there are no binding international provisions criminalizing attacks against cultural property in times of peace. The only relevant instrument adopted until today is the UNESCO Declaration Concerning the Intentional Destruction of Cultural Heritage, adopted in October 2003, in the wake of the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan by the Talibans. The aim of this research project is to ascertain whether the case-law of the ICTY builds in the direction of filling the existing gap in the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict and in times of peace, at least as far as the implementation of individual criminal liability is concerned. ICTY case-law is not only important per se, but also because it may be an important reference for domestic judges applying international criminal law as well as, in the near future, for the ICC. The precedents set by the ICTY judges could be taken into account in cases where crimes under a State’s jurisdiction or under the jurisdiction of the ICC were committed in time of peace. It seems thus appropriate to study at length ICTY case-law and to search for other relevant examples of domestic and international jurisprudence in this field in order to see how far this trend is going in filling the existing gap and in creating a regime of international individual criminal liability for acts against cultural property both in times of war and peace. In particular, consideration will be given to the contribution of the European Court of Human rights to the protection of cultural rights and to the measure adopted by European states and in EU law.

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Via Dei Roccettini 9
50014 Fiesole
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 102 742,84
Administrative Contact
Serena Scarselli (Mrs.)