It is unacceptable to intentionally target cultural heritage as a weapon of war
Following the worrying escalation of tensions in the Middle East and remembering the disastrous destruction of the cultural heritage of humanity in the region caused by terrorist groups only a few years ago, Europa Nostra finds it unacceptable that the President of the United States should threaten to intentionally destroy cultural heritage sites in Iran as a weapon of war. As the European Voice of Civil Society committed to cultural heritage, we thus stand in solidarity with numerous heritage professionals and organisations in the US, Iran and worldwide who have expressed their deep concern about such objectionable threats. We recall that the deliberate targeting of cultural property in the event of armed conflict is prohibited by international law (*) and has been recognised as a war crime by the International Criminal Court. We also recall the historic 2347 Resolution of the UN Security Council, adopted in March 2017, which “deplores and condemns the unlawful destruction of cultural heritage (…) in the context of armed conflicts”.
At the beginning of the New Decade, Europa Nostra insists that defending cultural heritage is more than a cultural issue: it is also a peace and security issue. It is inseparable from the vital goal of defending our Humanity and our Planet as a whole. Cultural heritage does not belong to one nation or to one country. Cultural heritage is part of our shared humanity and our shared history. Once lost, it is lost forever! To preserve and share this heritage is therefore the joint responsibility of us all: international organisations, governments, heritage professionals and civil society alike.
We therefore urge world leaders, governments and international organisations (and especially the UN, UNESCO and the European Union) to take cultural heritage out of the equation of political tensions or armed conflicts and to put it where it belongs: at the very heart of what brings us together in mutual respect and dialogue, as a driver of sustainable development and as a source of enrichment and inspiration for present and future generations.
(*) In particular, The Hague Convention for the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflicts, signed on 14/5/1954 in The Hague (The Netherlands) and entered into force on 7/08/1956, with its two subsequent Protocols.