The Syrian civil war has led to the looting and destruction of a significant amount of the country's cultural heritage. The rise of ISIS in Syria and its exploitation of cultural heritage for propaganda and financial gain has exacerbated this damage. Further, international treaty protections of cultural heritage during armed conflict contain significant weaknesses impeding their ability to effectively protect antiquities in the post-9/11 context of modern armed conflict that substantially involves non-state armed groups and acts of terrorism occurring outside the event of declared war. The primary international protections of cultural heritage during armed conflict consist of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its First and Second Protocols. These treaties have failed to protect antiquities against ISIS because they do not definitively apply to non-state actors, only apply during the event of declared war, fail to adequately coordinate with other international treaty protections of cultural heritage, and do not effectively allow for the transfer or safekeeping of antiquities originating from a conflict zone. This Note advocates for the promulgation of the Third Protocol to the 1954 Hague Convention, which contains provisions that would more effectively protect cultural heritage in the face of modern terrorism. The Third Protocol will: (1) bind non-state actors, (2) expand the scope of the treaty to sporadic acts of violence or terrorism, (3) increase synergy with other international protections of cultural heritage, and (4) establish a safekeeping and return provision for the storage of antiquities originating from a conflict zone. The addition of these provisions will not only significantly strengthen and modernize international cultural heritage protections but also hold non-state armed groups, such as ISIS, accountable for their deplorable actions against cultural heritage.
The Last Poor Plunder from a Bleeding Land: The Failure of International Law to Protect Syrian Antiquities,
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