Armenian Cultural Properties and Cultural Heritage: What Protection under International Law One Hundred Years Later?


"Cultural genocide" is not per se covered by the 1948 UN Convention. However, it was very carefully taken into consideration in works of the most prominenmt scholars immediately after the Armenian massacres of 1915-17. The fact that violent acts of cultural destruction and other similar actions directed at annihilating the distinctive culture of a group are usual precursors of massive killings and of other serious violations of human rights was evident before and during WWII and is even more evident today. Consequently the few limited, albeit significant, international legal rules concerning the protection of cultural heritage that were in force in 1915 have considerably developed and are still evolving, within the protection of human rights and peace. Today, States are under the duty to protect cultural heritage whatever its origin, both in time of peace and in time of war, and the UN Security Council itself endorses UNESCO's efforts, addressing not only the unlawful destruction and looting and smuggling in the event of armed conflicts, but also "the attempt to deny historical roots and cultural diversity" because it "can fuel and exacerbate conflict and hamper post-conflict national reconciliation". In this context, the recent attention paid by Turkey to the protection of certain specific Armenian sites is an undoubtedly positive sign, and it is essential that involvement of all relevant stakeholders in the management of the properties is ensured

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This paper was published in ART.

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