Department for Culture Media and Sport

hague convention 1954

1954 Hague Convention on the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict (Hague Convention) and its two protocols of 1954 (the "First Protocol") and 1999 (The "Second Protocol").

The Hague Convention, adopted following the massive destruction which took place in the Second World War, provides for a system of general and special protection of cultural property, in situations of international and non-international armed conflict.

Parties to the Convention are required to respect both cultural property situated within their own territory and cultural property within the territory of other parties, by refraining from using it, or its immediate surroundings, for purposes which are likely to expose it to destruction or damage in the event of armed conflict, and by refraining from committing any hostile act against the property.


The first and second protocols

The Convention was followed by two Protocols. The first in 1954, deals with obligations in relation to cultural property in occupied territory on both the occupying power, and countries who find cultural property which has been exported from occupied territory into their jurisdictions. The second in 1999 extends, and clarifies the obligations under the Convention. In particular, it identifies five acts, each a serious violation of the Protocol, which are to be considered an offence under the Protocol.

A copy of the Convention and the two Protocols can be downloaded from the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) website.

Guidelines for the Implementation of the 1999 Second Protocol to the Hague Convention, together with the Financial Regulations and the Guidelines concerning the use of the Fund were finalised at a meeting of the Parties to the Second Protocol held on 24 November 2009. Following their adoption, they became immediately operational. Visit the United Nations website for more information.

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Consultation on the Hague Convention, 2005

A 2005 DCMS consultation asked a number of important questions on the most suitable way for the UK to meet its obligations under the Hague Convention.

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Draft Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill, 2008

In 2008 the Department for Culture , Media and Sport (DCMS) issued the draft Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill 2008 for consultation.

The House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee conducted pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill and reported on this in their Ninth Report of Session 2007-08.

The response to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee Report on the Draft Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill was published in October 2008.

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Ratification

Together with a number of other countries, the UK Government did not to ratify the Convention when it was first drafted because it considered that it did not provide an effective regime for the protection of cultural property. However, the introduction of the Second Protocol removed this concern and in 2004 a commitment to ratify the convention was announced.

The DCMS is the lead department in taking this forward, but is working closely with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office who also have an interest in the legislation.

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The Government's position

1. The United Kingdom originally chose not to ratify the Convention or to accede to the First Protocol in 1954 not on the grounds that it opposed measures to protect cultural property in the event of armed conflict, but rather because it considered, together with a number of other countries, that it did not provide an effective regime for the protection of cultural property.

For example, it was felt that:

  • the Convention did not contain adequate criminal sanctions;
  • the meaning of many terms was imprecise;
  • the special protection regime that it proposed was considered too political.

2. In 1991, the Government of the Netherlands and UNESCO conducted a review of the working of the Convention and the Protocol. This led to the adoption of the Second Protocol in 1999, which the UK was involved in negotiating. This Protocol

  • set out clear criminal sanctions;
  • defined important terms; and
  • replaced the special protection regime with the enhanced protection regime.

This removed the UK’s concerns and so allowed the Government of the time to announce its intention to ratify in May 2004.

3. The Convention and its two Protocols now sets out a wide range of obligations on State Parties who choose to ratify and accede to them. However, existing UK laws are not sufficient to enable the UK to meet these obligations in full and so legislation was drafted, following detailed discussions between DCMS and other Government Departments. This resulted in the publication of the Draft Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill in January 2008.

4. Although fully committed to the need to introduce domestic legislation in order to ratify the Convention and accede to its Protocols, it was not possible for the previous government to include all the legislation it would have liked to introduce in its legislative programme. However, the previous government remained committed to introducing the relevant legislation as soon as parliamentary time should allow and communicated this to stakeholders.

5. This Government agrees that protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict is a priority and is also committed to introducing legislation to ratify the Convention and accede to its two Protocols when parliamentary time allows. The Government is aware that the Draft Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill was welcomed by the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, which found it to be strongly supported on the basis of the evidence it received, and considers that ratification of the Convention will strengthen our commitment to the protection of our own heritage and highlight our respect for the cultural property of other nations.

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