On 7 and 8 December 2016, Adelaide Law School’s Research Unit on Military Law and Ethics co-hosted a conference with Australian Red Cross on Protecting Cultural Property in Armed Conflict: Obligations in War and Peace. The conference attracted over 90 participants, many coming from Australia and overseas.
Associate Professor Suzanne Le Mire, Dean, Adelaide Law School, launched the conference and Ms Judy Slater, CEO, Australian Red Cross, provided a substantive introduction on Red Cross commitment to the issue of protecting cultural property in armed conflict.
Culture is a crucial part of a society’s identity and history. Under international humanitarian law, cultural property is to be protected and respected during times of war. In contemporary conflict, non-state actors (in particular) have purposely targeted and destroyed cultural property of a defeated people in order to undermine the sense of cultural identity. This is both reprehensible and unlawful under prevailing customary international law.
The Conference was an opportunity to explore the international legal paradigms impacting cultural property protection, related contemporary Australian issues, approaches to cultural property protection, and implementation of Hague obligations. Mr Thomas Wooden, RUMLAE Research Associate, presented a well-
received paper on the arguments in support of the inclusion of indigenous Australian cultural landscapes as cultural property for the purposes of Article 1 of the 1954 Hague Convention. An Australian Red Cross photographic exhibition ‘Culture Under Attack’ was launched following the conclusion of the first day of the Conference.
RUMLAE in association with Australian Red Cross led a half day workshop following the Conference to explore opportunities for the Australian government to ratify the two protocols to the 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property.