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Part II Substantive Aspects, Ch.4 Intentional Destruction of Cultural Heritage

Federico Lenzerini

From: The Oxford Handbook of International Cultural Heritage Law

Edited By: Francesco Francioni, Ana Filipa Vrdoljak

From: Oxford Public International Law (http://opil.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved.date: 18 January 2021

Human rights — Persecution — Individual criminal responsibility — Customary international law

This chapter focuses on the practice of deliberate destruction of cultural heritage, which has represented a plague accompanying humanity throughout all phases of its history and has involved many different human communities either as perpetrators or victims. In most instances of deliberate destruction of cultural heritage, the target of perpetrators is not the heritage in itself but, rather, the communities and persons for whom the heritage is of special significance. This reveals a clear discriminatory and persecutory intent against the targeted cultural groups, or even against the international community as a whole. As such, intentional destruction of cultural heritage, in addition of being qualified as a war crime, is actually to be considered as a crime against humanity. Furthermore, it also produces notable implications in terms of human rights protection. Protection of cultural heritage against destruction is today a moral and legal imperative representing one of the priorities of the international community. In this respect, two rules of customary international law exist prohibiting intentional destruction of cultural heritage in time of war and in peacetime.

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