It has been suggested frequently that most cultural property is destroyed during conflict through collateral damage (the unintentional or incidental damage, affecting facilities, equipment or personnel that are not justifiable military objectives) or accidental damage (the unintentional or incidental damage affecting facilities, equipment, or personnel). That is to say, either via the process of expected damage to something nearby that was not the actual target; or via entirely unintended damage. Shrapnel scarring on buildings, for example, is a common example of collateral damage if the target was not the building itself, but perhaps something nearby. On the other hand, aiming at a building in order to target those inside is deliberate damage, as the building is targeted in order to reach the people.

Mitigation: Over the centuries this has been undoubtedly true, but the Blue Shield questions whether it needs to continue to be so. In fact, as precision weaponry continues to improve, if the armed forces are aware of the location and vulnerabilities of cultural property, it is increasingly likely that – in line with the Laws of Armed Conflict, which call for consideration of appropriate weapon choices – weapons can be chosen to minimise the damage to cultural property. However, in order for this to occur, it is vital that the armed forces are made aware of the location and description of such property.

Photo: Clock Square in Raqqa, end of September 2017. By VOA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Read this Blue Shield article for NATO Open to find out more.