The CBA, along with many other partners from across the Heritage Sector, is calling for the British Government to finally ratify the Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, a decade after making a commitment to do so (as reported in the Telegraph and the Art Newspaper earlier this week).
The convention was originally drawn up in the 1950s, in the wake of the massive destruction of cultural property during the Second World War and in response to concerns raised by the international community. It aims to regulate the conduct of nations during war and military occupation in order to assure the protection of cultural property, including monuments, architecture, archaeological sites, works of art, manuscripts, books and other objects of artistic, historical or archaeological significance, during both international and internal conflict. The convention specifically prohibits the appropriation of cultural property as war reparation. A second protocol was also added in the late 1990s, which specifies the sanctions that should be imposed for serious violations.
So far, 126 countries and member states have ratified the Hague convention. The United Kingdom has signed, but not ratified the treaty. This is somewhat baffling as the move appears to have cross-party support, and support from the Ministry of Defence, and the necessary draft legislation is already in place.
The Government announced their intention to ratify in 2004, and in 2008 a Parliamentary Bill was drafted and considered by a DCMS Select Committee (who only suggested a very small number of changes) in 2008, but it was not eventually given a slot in the next Parliamentary session. In 2009 Barbara Follett MP, then Minister of Heritage, reiterated that the Government was committed to ratification “at the earliest possible opportunity”. This position was further reiterated by Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for Culture, Communications & Creative Industries at the Department of Culture Media and Sport, in 2011, and again in January of this year when he confirmed that the Government “remains committed” to ratification “as soon as Parliamentary time allows”. However, to date, the UK still remains the only major Western power that has not formally ratified the treaty.
Members of the Heritage Sector are therefore calling for the Government to follow up on their commitment and send a clear message about the UK’s position on the unnecessary destruction of cultural heritage during conflict. This is particularly poignant considering the current situation in areas like Syria and other parts of the Middle East, where there have been a number of worrying reports of the deliberate destruction of cultural artefacts over recent weeks.
If you want to add your voice please contact your MP and ask them to support the campaign.