thumbnail Newcastle expert urges Government to protect cultural property during war

A Newcastle University expert has called on the Government to finally pass legislation to prevent the looting and destruction of artefacts in countries at war.

Peter Stone, Professor of Heritage Studies, wants politicians to ratify the 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its two Protocols, before the 10th anniversary of the Iraq war in 2013.

Professor Stone who, before the invasion, advised the Government in 2003  about the risks of an invasion to Iraq’s cultural heritage and has produced two books about it, said: “Britain is the only world power currently involved in conflicts around the world which has not ratified this convention. This puts the UK’s claim to be leading for the civilised world in question.

“Protecting a country’s cultural heritage has many benefits, not least to the military who can build better relationships with the local population if they respect the community’s traditions and heritage. Cultural heritage is very important to the long-term stability of a country after the fighting has stopped.

“When Iraq was invaded there was a huge amount of looting of museums, art galleries, libraries, archives and archaeological sites. This was a real loss as many of those artefacts were smuggled and sold illegally around the world."

Iraq, formerly known as Mesopotamia, was at the forefront of the development of civilization in the ancient world.

Professor Stone now wants the Government to take action soon, after reassurances in 2004 and more recently in 2011 that the necessary legislation will be passed to enable the Convention to be ratified.

He said: “This has taken too long and I urge the Government to do something before the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq arrives.”


published on: 25th April 2012