How the Destruction of Culture has Been Weaponized as a Tool of War
Michael Press’ recent article, How Antiquities Have Been Weaponized in the Struggle to Preserve Culture (Hyperallergic 12/6), brings an interesting sensationalized perspective to the debate but offers no solutions and largely overlooks the more positive recent efforts to protect cultural heritage by the international community precisely because of the acknowledged link between terrorist financing and cultural heritage destruction. Even more importantly, he ignores the recognition by the international community of cultural crimes as a tool of war and the recent acknowledgment that the destruction of culture is a crime against humanity, i.e. a war crime. It is these acknowledged links that resulted in the Security Council’s adoption of Resolutions 2199 and 2253 (2015) under its Article VII Peacekeeping Powers, with the result of mandating member state action, which led to the United States’ enactment of the Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act.
These links also resulted in the UNESCO Secretary General Irina Bokova’s invitation to address the Security Council for the first time in March 2017 and the unanimous adoption by the Security Council of Resolution 2347 (March 24, 2017), condemning the destruction and smuggling of cultural heritage by terrorist groups and providing a detailed agenda for cooperation of states, law enforcement and international organizations to preserve cultural heritage and prevent its illicit trafficking. (See https://www.un.org/press/en/2017/sc12764.doc.htm; See also the recent letter sent to Congress from the New York City Bar Association regarding the US withdrawal from UNESCO: http://www.nycbar.org/member-and-career-services/committees/reports-listing/reports/detail/concern-over-the-us-withdrawal-from-unesco.)
To get a broader picture of issues to be brought to the table for discussion, see The Antiquities Coalition: https://theantiquitiescoalition.org/; the May 18, 2017 program at the New York City Bar Association entitled The Destruction of Memory: Cultural Crimes and the National and International Efforts to Combat Them: http://www.nycbar.org/media-listing/media/detail/the-destruction-of-memory-cultural-crimes-and-the-national-and-international-efforts-to-combat-them; and the February 22, 2016 program at the New York City Bar Association entitled ISIS And Islam: The International Legal Framework And U.S. Law To Combat The Plunder And Illicit Trade In Conflict:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3K_DBUdyco; see also /Blog-and-News/Isis-and-Islam-NYC-Bar-Presentation.shtml.