British Government Announces Plans to Ratify the 1954 Hague Convention

The UK National Committee of the Blue Shield (UKBS) welcomes an announcement today by John Whittingdale, the Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport, that the British Government plans to ratify the 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. Professor Peter Stone, Chair of the UKBS, said:

This is excellent news for which we have been waiting and campaigning for the last decade and more. However, I note with some trepidation that as yet there is still no clear timeframe for ratification and that, in the information we have so far, there is no mention of the two Protocols to the Convention. I shall be writing to the Secretary of State to clarify these two issues, while congratulating him on this announcement.

The 1954 Hague Convention is the primary piece of International Humanitarian Legislation concerning the protection of cultural property during armed conflict. It was first adopted by countries following the wholesale destruction of tangible culture which took place during the Second World War and, since then, has provided a framework for those countries to protect cultural property from the effects of international and domestic armed conflict. Parties to the Convention are required to respect cultural property situated within the territory of other Parties by not attacking it, and to respect cultural property within their own territory by not using it for purposes which are likely to expose it to destruction or damage during armed conflict.

Professor Eleanor Robson, Chair of the British Institute for the Study of Iraq and Board Member of the UKBS, added:

ISIS’ current rampage across northern Iraq and Syria has drawn urgent international attention to the plight of cultural heritage in times of war. By ratifying the 1954 Hague Convention, the UK Government will send a clear signal of its commitment to protecting civilian communities and their histories if it should ever intervene in this conflict or others, and provide the armed forces a clear mandate to do so.

In addition to announcing the British Government’s intention to ratify the 1954 Hague Convection, the Secretary of State John Whittingdale also announced that the Government planned to develop a new cultural protection fund to support the protection of cultural property and their recovery from acts of cultural destruction, and planned to bring together in the summer a summit of senior Government colleagues and cultural leaders to advise on the proposed new legislation and shape the delivery of a new cultural protection fund.