Cultural property are physical items that are part of the cultural heritage of a group or society. They include such items as historic buildings, works of art, archaeological sites, libraries and museums.
Legal protection of cultural property comprises a number of international agreements and national laws. There is intensive cooperation between the United Nations, UNESCO and Blue Shield International on the protection of cultural goods.
Article 1 of the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict of 1954 defines cultural property as follows:
- "The term 'cultural property' shall cover, irrespective of origin or ownership:
- (a) movable or immovable property of great importance to the cultural heritage of every people, such as monuments of architecture, art or history, whether religious or secular; archaeological sites; groups of buildings which, as a whole, are of historical or artistic interest; works of art; manuscripts, books and other objects of artistic, historical or archaeological interest; as well as scientific collections and important collections of books or archives or of reproductions of the property defined above;
- (b) buildings whose main and effective purpose is to preserve or exhibit the movable cultural property defined in sub-paragraph (a) such as museums, large libraries and depositories of archives, and refuges intended to shelter, in the event of armed conflict, the movable cultural property defined in sub-paragraph (a);
- (c) centers containing a large amount of cultural property as defined in sub-paragraphs (a) and (b), to be known as 'centers containing monuments'."
Article 16 of the Convention describes the internationally recognized mark for cultural property as follows:
- (1) The distinctive emblem of the Convention shall take the form of a shield, pointed below, persaltire blue and white (a shield consisting of a royal-blue square, one of the angles of which forms the point of the shield, and of a royal-blue triangle above the square, the space on either side being taken up by a white triangle).
- Use of the Emblem is restricted under international humanitarian law. Guidance for using the emblem is available from The Blue Shield, and UNESCO.
- Ann Marie Sullivan, Cultural Heritage & New Media: A Future for the Past, 15 J. MARSHALL REV. INTELL. PROP. L. 604 (2016) https://repository.jmls.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1392&context=ripl
- "UNESCO Legal Instruments: Second Protocol to the Hague Convention of 1954 for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict 1999".
- Roger O’Keefe, Camille Péron, Tofig Musayev, Gianluca Ferrari "Protection of Cultural Property. Military Manual." UNESCO, 2016, S. 73ff.
- UNESCO Director-General calls for stronger cooperation for heritage protection at the Blue Shield International General Assembly. UNESCO, 13 September 2017.
- Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict with Regulations for the Execution of the Convention 1954 at the UNESCO website
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