Protection of cultural property

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Protection of cultural or protection of cultural property refers to all measures to protect cultural property against damage, destruction, theft , misappropriation or other loss. The term “ monument protection ” is also used for immovable cultural assets . This relates in particular to the prevention of robbery excavations at archaeological sites, looting or destruction of cultural sites as well as theft of works of art from churches and museums around the world and, in principle, to measures relating to the preservation and general access to our common cultural heritage. The legal protection of cultural property comprises a number of international agreements and national laws , which must also be implemented. Blue Shield International is an international organization that, as a partner organization of UNESCO, coordinates national and international cultural property protection.


Basically, cultural assets such as archaeological finds, excavation sites , archives , libraries , museums and monuments are the particularly sensitive cultural memory and mostly also the economic basis of a state, a municipality or a region. In the history of mankind, armed conflicts were almost always accompanied by the looting, confiscation and destruction of cultural property. In addition to the human suffering caused by armed and armed conflicts, around three quarters of all cultural goods ever created by human hands and thus the testimonies and evidence of human creativity have been destroyed in this way. In contrast, only about a quarter of all cultural assets have been destroyed by natural disasters or have finally disappeared due to normal decay. In all epochs, in addition to fighting the enemy, cultural assets have always been a potential target of enemy warfare. This endeavor should serve the purpose of refinancing the war costs through successful raids and at the same time depriving the subjugated opponent of his spiritual and cultural identity. Most of the wars or armed conflicts of the last decades can be classified as "War on identity (identity war)". According to Karl von Habsburg, the destruction of cultural assets is also part of psychological warfare. The target is the identity of the opponent, which is why symbolic cultural assets become a main target.

Today, the abuse of cultural goods is internationally outlawed and punishable. Karl Habsburg, President of Blue Shield, stated: “The legal situation has also aroused much greater awareness among the military itself. Misuse of cultural property is a criminal offense. The military used to think that we can actually do what we want, because we are only responsible for our own commitment and military law. Most military are now aware that they can apply sanctions here - or are slowly becoming aware of them. "

From a historical point of view, on July 29, 1899 in The Hague, the "Agreement on the Laws and Customs of War on Land", which is fundamental for the protection of cultural property, was ratified by the conference powers involved. The guidelines for the protection of cultural property, which are legally binding under international law, were almost verbatim in the "Hague Agreement on the Laws and Customs of Land War" of October 18, 1907 and the associated annex, the "Order of the Laws and Customs of Land War" (Hague Land War Regulation) accepted.

The first international law agreement that exclusively contained guidelines for the protection of artistic and scientific institutions as well as historical monuments was the "Roerich Pact" concluded on April 15, 1935 by the 21 members of the Pan American Union in Washington.

The UNESCO convened April 21, 1954 an international conference in The Hague in the Netherlands, the "Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict" signed at the closing session 37 of the 56 member states on 14 May 1954th At this conference, the still young Federal Republic of Germany was one of the first signatory states to the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict of May 14, 1954 (HK). In March 1999, a conference of the signatory states to the Hague Convention was convened again in The Hague in the Netherlands and opened by the Dutch Foreign Minister van Artsen and the UNESCO Director General Mayor. Over 80 contracting states and many non-contracting states, including the United States, attended the conference. The International Committee of the Red Cross and Blue Shield International , an association of non-governmental organizations in the field of cultural property protection, were also present. The developments in Syria and Iraq have also shown the importance of protecting cultural assets, cultural diversity and social cohesion in armed conflicts. The UN resolution 2347 of March 24, 2017 is the first resolution that focuses only on cultural heritage. According to UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova, the cooperation between UNESCO and Blue Shield is to be further strengthened. "UNESCO and Blue Shield International share a common goal," and "We seek to protect cultural property, and, by extension, humanity's cultural legacy," said Bokova in October 2017 at a Blue Shield International conference.

Many national societies for the protection of cultural property work closely with the Blue Shield organizations of the contracting states and coordinate closely with one another with regard to cultural policy objectives. On March 26, 1999, after long deliberations, a consensus was reached on the draft of a Second Protocol to the Hague Convention, which had been drawn up by several working groups, and was adopted by the conference participants. The Doha statement of the "Conference of Ulama on Islam and Cultural Heritage" from 2001 is on the protection of cultural property in the Arab and Islamic world. The employees of Blue Shield and its national organizations have then, despite the partial dissolution of state structures and the very unclear security situation as a result of the wars and unrest in Iraq, Syria, Mali, Egypt and Libya, robust efforts were carried out to protect the cultural assets there. Especially with regard to the destruction of cultural assets through conflicts but also through earthquakes such as in Haiti or Nepal, there is now increased cooperation between Blue Shield and national armed forces such as the US Army or the British Army. Troops are supported, among other things, with regard to proactive protection of cultural property.

Most of the countries that want to honor their cultural heritage today do so on a list basis, in four classifications as world cultural heritage and national, regional or local cultural asset. In some cases there is also an ensemble protection called "Cultural Landscapes". In addition to the designation of protected cultural assets with white and blue signs, the Blue-Shield Organization works particularly with regard to the comprehensive training of the military with regard to the protection of cultural assets under international law and the creation of "no-strike" lists. "No-strike lists" are lists of cultural assets that should not be touched by any of the warring parties. With the support of local experts such as archivists or archaeologists, the essential objects are recorded, these lists are presented to the military and implementation is monitored. It has been shown that in contrast to many other organizations, which concentrate in their work on the peaceful phase before and after conflicts and leave the country in case of danger, the Blue-Shield employees still try to be on site. Destruction of cultural assets is punished by the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Furthermore, because of the destruction of cultural property, the court can determine the amount of compensation that the convicted person must pay.

The future of the protection of cultural property and robust cultural protection interventions will lie in the interaction of the United Nations organizations with experienced partners such as Blue Shield International and UNESCO .


Cultural property protection organizations

European Union

  • European Regulation (EEC) No. 3911/92 on the export of cultural goods, import, export and transfer of ownership of cultural goods
  • Directive 93/7 / EEC on the return of cultural goods illegally removed from the territory of a Member State

National laws


Other states


  • Michael Kloepfer : Monument protection and environmental protection. Legal entanglements and conflicts between the spatial protection of cultural property and environmental and planning law (= writings on environmental law. Volume 172). Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2012, ISBN 978-3-428-83783-0 (with the assistance of Elke Ditscherlein and Frederic Kahrl).
  • Kerstin Odendahl (ed.): Cultural property law . Baden-Baden 2006, ISBN 3-8329-1723-3 .
  • Jörn Radloff: Cultural Property Law. With special consideration of the foreign trade restrictions and prohibitions on taking away art and cultural property in private property (= publications on public law. Volume 1258). Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3-428-13957-6 .
  • Olaf Zimmermann and Theo Geißler (eds.): Old stuff: Contributions to the discussion on the sustainable protection of cultural assets (From Politics & Culture, Volume 14) , ISBN 978-3-934868-38-0 ; free e-book: [1]

Web links

Wikisource: Protection of cultural assets  - sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. Cf. Karl Habsburg in the interview “Misuse of cultural goods is punishable” in Wiener Zeitung on June 29, 2012.
  2. Friedrich Schipper: Iconoclasm: The global norms for the protection of cultural property do not apply. In: The Standard of March 6, 2015.
  3. Isabelle-Constance v. Opalinski: Shots on civilization in FAZ from August 20, 2014.
  4. UNESCO convenes Libyan and international experts meeting for the safeguard of Libya's cultural heritage. UNESCO World Heritage Center - News, October 21, 2011.
  5. ^ Roger O'Keefe, Camille Péron, Tofig Musayev, Gianluca Ferrari "Protection of Cultural Property. Military Manual." UNESCO, 2016, pp. 73ff.
  6. See also Jyot Hosagrahar: Culture: at the heart of SDGs. UNESCO courier, April-June 2017.
  7. Cf. Gerold Keusch "Cultural Protection in the Era of Identity Wars" in Troop Service - Magazine of the Austrian Armed Forces of October 24, 2018.
  8. See also Karl von Habsburg on a mission in Lebanon. Retrieved July 19, 2019 .
  9. See Hans Haider in an interview with Karl Habsburg "Abuse of cultural assets is punishable" in Wiener Zeitung on June 29, 2012.
  10. Cf. u. a. Jyot Hosagrahar "Culture: at the heart of SDGs", UNESCO courier, April-June 2017.
  11. See "UNESCO Director-General calls for stronger cooperation for heritage protection at the Blue Shield International General Assembly.", Broadcast by UNESCO on September 13, 2017.
  12. See Friedrich Schipper "Iconoclasm: The global norms for the protection of cultural property do not apply." in The Standard of March 6, 2015.
  13. ^ Corine Wegener, Marjan Otter "Cultural Property at War: Protecting Heritage during Armed Conflict" in The Getty Conservation Institute, Newsletter 23.1, Spring 2008.
  14. See Eden Stiffman, "Cultural Preservation in Disasters, War Zones. Presents Big Challenges" in The Chronicle Of Philanthropy, May 11, 2015.
  15. See Hans Haider in an interview with Karl Habsburg "Abuse of cultural assets is punishable" in Wiener Zeitung on June 29, 2012.
  16. See e.g. B. Aisling Irwin "A no-strike list may shield Yemen`s ancient treasures from war" in Daily News of January 23, 2017.
  17. See Sabine von Schorlemer "Destruction of cultural assets. The erasure of cultural heritage in crisis countries as a challenge for the United Nations." (2016), p. 784ff; Corine Wegener, Marjan Otter "Cultural Property at War: Protecting Heritage during Armed Conflict" in The Getty Conservation Institute, Newsletter 23.1, Spring 2008.
  18. See Markus Hilgert in conversation with Dieter Kassel "A historic event in international humanitarian law" in Deutschlandfunk Kultur on August 17, 2017.
  19. Eric Gibson, "The Destruction of Cultural Heritage Should be a War Crime." in The Wall Street Journal on March 2, 2015.
  20. ^ Sabine von Schorlemer: Destruction of cultural assets. The eradication of cultural heritage in crisis countries as a challenge for the United Nations. (2016), p. 882ff.