UN Special Rapporteur releases report on intentional destruction of cultural heritage

In her latest report, UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights Karima Bennoune states that the intentional destruction of cultural heritage is a human rights issue and calls for national and international mechanisms to prevent such destruction, hold those accountable who have caused the destruction and support and protect those who defend cultural heritage.

The intentional destruction of cultural heritage is a human rights issue. The approach to stopping it needs to be a holistic one, encompassing all regions, focused on both prevention and punishment, and targeting acts committed by both State and non-State actors, in conflict and non-conflict situations. We must not only respond urgently, but also take the long view.

Bennoune notes in the report that cultural heritage is not limited to tangible objects like buildings or ruins, but applies to intangible works that include works of artistic expression as well:

Cultural heritage is a broader concept which does not rest upon one agreed definition: it includes tangible heritage composed of sites, structures and remains of archaeological, historical, religious, cultural or aesthetic value, as well as intangible heritage comprising traditions, customs and practices, vernacular or other languages, forms of artistic expression and folklore.

The 24-page report, which synthesises inputs from a meeting of experts and 68 submissions from states, academics and human rights and civil society organisations around the world, outlines a number of recommendations states can implement to protect cultural heritage, as well as recommendations for organisations and experts to support the protection of cultural heritage and cultural rights.

» The full report can be accessed at the following link by finding the 2016 report number A/71/317 in the “Document number” column, clicking on the letters underneath, which will take you to another page where you can select your preferred language (A=Arabic; E=English, F=French, etc.) by clicking on the appropriate letters in the “Documents” column:

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