March 30, 2012

Why Britain should back the world ban on artefact looting

Posted at 1:47 pm in Similar cases

For reasons that are unclear to me, Britain has never ratified the 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. This is despite declaring in 2004 that they would ratify the convention. The only reason I have ever been given was that it conflicted in some places with existing laws in Britain, that would need to be amended first.


Letters: Back the world ban on looting
Friday 30 March 2012

The March 2003 invasion of Iraq by a coalition led by the US and the UK failed to prevent the immediate and appalling looting of museums, libraries, archives and art galleries, followed by years of looting of archaeological sites across the country.

On 14 May 2004, the UK Government announced its intention to ratify the 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, and its protocols of 1954 and 1999. Today, on the ninth anniversary of the invasion, it has still to honour this commitment. This is despite all-party support for ratification and recently reiterated support for ratification from the Ministry of Defence, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The USA ratified the Convention in 2009. This leaves the UK as arguably the most significant military power, and certainly the only power with extensive military involvements abroad, not to have ratified it.

The Secretary of State at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (the ministry responsible for the issue) has recently informed us of his determination to find parliamentary time to pass the necessary legislation to enable the UK to ratify the Convention and its protocols. We applaud this initiative and urge the Government to support the Secretary of State and to pass the legislation before we reach the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

Peter Stone
Professor of Heritage Studies, Newcastle University

Nick Poole
Chair, International Council of Museums UK

Margaret Greeves
Chair, Collections Trust

Professor Sir Adam Roberts
President of the British Academy

Sir Simon Jenkins
Chair, National Trust

John S C Lewis
General Secretary and CEO, Society of Antiquaries

John Dolan
Chair of Council, The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals

Martin Taylor
Chair, Archives and Records Association (UK & Ireland)

Sue Cole
UK & Ireland Committee of the Blue Shield

Dr Mike Heyworth
Director, Council for British Archaeology

Peter Hinton
Chief Executive, Institute for Archaeologists

Mark Taylor
Director, Museums Association

Dr Eleanor Robson
Incoming Chair, British Institute for the Study of Iraq

Mike Williams
Secretary, the Nautical Archaeology Society

Jane Sillis
Director, Engage

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