chapter  15
14 Pages

Lemkin on vandalism and the protection of cultural works and historical monuments during armed conflict

ByMark Klamberg

The destruction of cultural property has been subject to different attempts of criminalization at the criminal level and international prosecution is only a recent phenomenon. There may be several reasons for such destruction: symbolic, part of erasing an ethnicity or part of breaking the moral resistance of an enemy. The destruction of cultural property may be part of an armed conflict as well as in the absence or an armed conflict. Cultural property is not only vulnerable in terms of destruction; it may also be subject to other crimes such as theft and illicit transport, during armed conflict as well as during peace. This study focuses on the destruction of cultural property with a starting point with the concept used by Raphaël Lemkin: vandalism and his attempt to include it into genocide convention. Lemkin’s efforts turned out to be a sidetrack to present status of the protection of cultural works and historical monuments under international law. However, this omission should not be exaggerated since acts which would amount to cultural genocide according to Lemkin’s original idea could also constitute war crimes and occur in a context of crimes against humanity or genocide.