THE GENEVA CONVENTIONS (1949)
AND ADDITIONAL PROTOCOLS (1977)

The primary foundations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) are the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Additional Protocols of 1977. Two key articles in the Additional Protocols in particular relate to cultural heritage protection.

Article 53 of Protocol I (1977) relates directly to the protection of cultural objects and of places of worship:

Article 53:

Without prejudice to the provisions of the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict of 14 May 1954, and of other relevant international instruments, it is prohibited:
(a) to commit any acts of hostility directed against the historic monuments, works of art or places of worship which constitute the cultural or spiritual heritage of peoples;
(b) to use such objects in support of the military effort;
(c) to make such objects the object of reprisals.

Article 16 of Protocol II (1977) also relates directly to the protection of cultural objects and of places of worship:

Article 16:

Without prejudice to the provisions of the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict of 14 May 1954, it is prohibited to commit any acts of hostility directed against historic monuments, works of art or places of worship which constitute the cultural or spiritual heritage of peoples, and to use them in support of the military effort.

Although they are widely regarded as customary international law and so applicable to all parties in a conflict, the Geneva Conventions themselves are applicable in international armed conflicts (IACs); however, once signed by a State Party, Additional Protocol II widens their applicability to non-international armed conflicts (NIACs).

Read the full Geneva Convention on the ICRC online database of international humanitarian law

Read the full Additional Protocol I on the ICRC online database of international humanitarian law

Read the full Additional Protocol II on the ICRC online database of international humanitarian law

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