1. Basic protection: The 1954 Convention was adopted well before the 1977 Protocols. It was drafted against the background of the Second World War at a time when it was still considered inevitable that entire cities would be attacked. In the midst of such a war, the 1954 Convention sought to protect valuable cultural property. It provides that cultural property can only be attacked in case of "imperative military necessity" without defining this exception. In 1977, Protocol I did away with this approach. Henceforth, only military objectives - more clearly defined and more carefully selected - should be made the object of attack. It appeared self-evident that any improvement of the 1954 Convention should reflect this modern approach: cultural property is civilian property and it should not be attacked unless when it becomes a military objective. In addition, cultural property can only be attacked when there is no other feasible alternative. The updating of the 1954 Convention in light of Protocol I also led to the inclusion of rules concerning precautions in attack that are found in Protocol I.
2. Enhanced protection: Given that the 1954 system of cultural property under special protection never worked, the Second Procotol establishes a new system. Cultural property of the greatest importance for humanity can be placed under enhanced protection provided it is adequately protected by domestic law and not used for military purposes or to shield military sites. Enhanced protection is granted from the moment of entry in the List of Cultural Property Under Enhanced Protection. This decision is taken by the Committee for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, an intergovernmental committee established under the new Protocol.
3. Enforcement: Another development reflected in the new Protocol is the increased effort to fight impunity through effective criminal prosecution of war criminals. The Protocol specifically defines five serious violations for which it establishes individual criminal responsibility. States undertake to adopt appropriate legislation to make these violations criminal offences under domestic law, to provide appropriate penalties and to establish jurisdiction over these offences, including universal jurisdiction for three of the five serious violations. The list of serious violations goes well beyond existing law.
4. Scope of application: The Second Protocol applies equally to international and non-international armed conflicts. The extension of the application of the Second Protocol to non-international armed conflicts is essential.
Also available: Final Act of the Diplomatic Conference, HC/1999/8