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Phnom Penh: Regional Asian and Pacific Expert Meeting on the protection of cultural property in wartime

09-12-2004 News Release

 The following was issued as a press release by the ICRC delegation in Bangkok.  

The 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict was the focus of a regional meeting of experts held from 6 to 8 December in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The last of a series of regional and national events held to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the 1954 Hague Cultural Property Convention, the meeting was organized jointly by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), under the high auspices of the Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia.

In his opening address, ICRC Vice-President, Mr. Jacques Forster, emphasized the remarkable riches and achievements of the Khmer civilisation, prime among them the magnificent complex of temples of Angkor, yet reminding that " this invaluable cultural heritage had suffered the tragedies and follies of war, and therewith the blatant disrespect for humanity, its values and realisations " . " Respect for people's dignity, he noted, implies respect for their culture and traditions " .

In recent years, the growing number of religious and ethnic conflicts around the world has led to frequent attacks not only against civilians but also against places of worship, monuments, and works of art. " The ICRC, which strives to ensure the survival of war victims and to respond to their immediate needs, is increasingly concerned with finding ways to strengthen respect for their dignity, " said François Bugnion, ICRC Director for Internati onal Law and Cooperation with the Movement. " How can the dignity of people be preserved unless their cultural heritage and traditions are respected? " . 

On his part, Mr. Guido Carducci, Chief of the International Standards'Section of the UNESCO Division of Cultural Heritage noted in his statement: “We should not forget that cultural property is a silent victim of the great majority of armed conflicts and that it is the collective memory of peoples which suffers when cultural property is destroyed”.

The meeting, which was opened by H.E. Prince Norodom Ranariddh, President of the Cambodian National Assembly, and was concluded by the country's Prime Minister, H.E. Mr. Hun Sen, brought together over sixty government officials, academics and specialists from 21 countries in the Asia-Pacific region (including Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, DPRK, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Laos, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, New-Zealand, The Philippines, People's Republic of China, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam). The objectives of the event were to examine ways to ensure that the international rules for the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict are better known, implemented at national level, and respected.

In their Final Conclusions, the participants in the meeting invited all States of the Asia-Pacific region which have not yet done so to accede to the 1954 Hague Cultural Property Convention and its First and Second Protocols of 1954 and 1999, which establish a comprehensive legal and regulatory framework to protect cultural property from the effects of warfare. It is essential to strive for universal adherence to and respect for these rules if the cultural heritage of humankind is to be preserved for future generations.


 For further information, please contact  

  Stéphane Hankins, DC/JUR/CONSULT, Genève, tel. 0041.22.730.24.19