Destruction of cultural property as a war crime: Breaking new ground in the quest for accountability
James E Archibong
Destruction of cultural objects had been an attribute of war for centuries. International law frowned at this repulsive behaviour and developed rules proscribing it. The legal framework proved inadequate as looting and vandalism continued. Deliberate devastation of cultural objects during the Balkan war caused global outrage. In response, the ICTY was created to prosecute individuals implicated in the acts for war crimes. The 1998 Rome Statute of the ICC declared destruction of cultural heritage a war crime. In 1999, the Second Protocol to the 1954 Hague Convention criminalised attacks on cultural relics. These instruments render an individual liable to prosecution before a criminal court. In 2015, a jihadist, Ahmad Al Faqi, was charged before the ICC with the war crime of destruction of cultural heritage in Mali. His conviction and sentencing was a watershed. However, there is no sustained effort to prosecute persons who continue to perpetrate such crimes. This paper advocates regular referrals, trials and convictions as the surest measure to secure cultural heritage, enthrone accountability and curb impunity by terrorists and traffickers.