The Intentional Destruction of Cultural Heritage as a Genocidal Act and a Crime Against Humanity
26 Pages Posted: 25 Apr 2018
Date Written: April 15, 2018
Lemkin originally envisaged the crime of genocide as encompassing not only physical and biological acts of genocide, but also the intentional destruction of cultural heritage. In fact, earlier drafts of the Genocide Convention proposed the criminalisation not only of physical and biological genocide, but also of cultural genocide, with the latter understood as involving the destruction of specific characteristics of the protected group. This was eventually left out of the final draft of the Convention, save for the prohibition of the forcible transfer of the protected group’s children.
However, the destruction of a protected group can be brought about not only by physical or biological means, but also by systematically erasing its culture heritage and therefore its group identity, destroying the group from its very core, an act which is described by Chaumont as constituting ‘ethnocide’. In fact, the ad hoc criminal tribunals have considered the systematic and intentional destruction of cultural heritage as evidence of the specific intent to destroy a group. The aim of this paper is to analyse the intentional destruction of cultural heritage from a human perspective, considering it as a crime against persons, not solely against property, and to examine whether it is time to revise the definition of genocide to incorporate the intentional destruction of cultural heritage as a genocidal act, as it was originally conceived by Lemkin.
Keywords: cultural heritage, intentional destruction of cultural heritage, cultural genocide, persecution, cultural cleansing
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