The Protection of Cultural Heritage in International Law

Esil Conference 2017 > Theme > The Protection of Cultural Heritage in International Law

Cultural heritage and its role in society has become the object of intense scrutiny at the international and national level. This is shown by the adoption in the past three decades of a great variety of instruments covering tangible and intangible heritage, in peacetime and in wartime. Beyond these written instruments it remains to be seen whether and how cultural heritage is protected by new rules and principles of customary international law. Certainly, the specialist instruments in force today have influenced other fields of international law and policy, such as trade, investments, maritime law, the protection of the environment, intellectual property rights, human rights and indigenous peoples’ rights. Perhaps the most visible manifestation of the protection of cultural heritage as an international concern of humanity comes from the reaction of the international community in condemning the intentional destruction of archaeological treasures and other cultural objects of great importance for humanity. This has led to the criminalisation of assaults on culture under international law and to the enforcement of this new law by the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Court. Cultural heritage has undergone also a significant evolution in concept and scope with the emergence of the category of intangible cultural heritage, which is intimately linked to other common goods and values such as cultural diversity, protection of minorities, preservation of traditional knowledge and of the ancestral lands of indigenous peoples, and sustainable development in harmony with nature.

This agora can address all topics relating to protection of cultural heritage in international law. Specific possible topics include the protection of cultural heritage against destructive violence in times of armed conflicts, looting in peacetime, and conflicts between the protection of cultural heritage as an international common good with other common values, such as economic growth, the fight against poverty and the protection of economic and social rights, and the liberalization of trade.




Riccardo Pavoni (University of Siena)



 Andrzej Jakubowski (Institute for Legal Studies, Polish Academy of Sciences) “Global Commons, Cultural Nationalism and the International Protection of Cultural Heritage”

 Giulio Bartolini (University of Roma Tre) “Disasters: An Additional (Legal) Dimension for the Protection of Cultural and Natural Heritage”

 Ann Marie Spiteri (Court Attorney at Superior Courts of Malta) “The Intentional Destruction of Cultural Heritage as a Genocidal Act and a Crime against Humanity”