Cultural Property (Armed Conflict) Bill [Lords]

Written evidence submitted by Dr Emma Cunliffe, Durham University (CPB 18)

Summary

I urge the Bill Committee to act as quickly as possible to pass the Bill in its current form to ensure that the UK can ratify the 1954 Hague Convention and both its Protocols.

1. I am a member of the Endangered Archaeology in the Middle East & North Africa Project at Durham University, specialising in the destruction of cultural heritage in conflict, of UK Blue Shield, working to help protect heritage during armed conflict.

2. I have been keenly following the ratification of the Bill and fully support the present draft without the need for further amendment. I note the concerns raised on the "Have your say on the Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill" webpage, and am aware of them from discussions regarding the Bill as it has passed through the various committee stages. Nonetheless, I fully support the views of Professor Roger O’Keefe regarding these concerns (already submitted to DCMS), in particular his stance on Clause 17 (‘Offence of dealing in unlawfully exported cultural property’), which should remain in the Bill as written. The legal checks to ensure that dealers are not complicity dealing in illegally traded material should not be a cause for concern, but rather standard practice.

3. In its present form the Bill complies with international legislation, much of which is part of customary international law, yet still sets an important international standard as it will allow the ratification of the 1954 Hague Convention and both its Protocols, offering significant protection to cultural heritage in conflict.

4. I urge the Bill Committee to act as quickly as possible to pass the Bill in its current form to ensure that the UK can ratify the 1954 Hague Convention and both its Protocols. If we act quickly the UK could become the first of the Permanent Members of the UN’s Security Council to have ratified all three parts of the convention, a fact that has already been noted in international circles, and was highlighted in a recent United Nations report on cultural heritage destruction by the High Commission for the Office of Human Rights.

5. The UK has an unparalleled opportunity to establish itself as a leader in the field of cultural property protection. The significant reputational gain, ethical framework, and legal improvements to the protection of cultural heritage during armed conflict brought about by the ratification of the Bill, supported by the establishment of the Cultural Property Fund, could be further enhanced by the establishment of a central office to handle matters relating to cultural property protection. The natural organisation for this would be the United Kingdom Committee of the Blue Shield, which not only has significant experience advising military forces o n the protection of heritage in conflict (despite its voluntary nature), but a large number of international links in this field as well.

November 2016

 

Prepared 16th November 2016