Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (Hague Convention) Bill 2016: Second Stage
“I welcome the Minister to the House and I welcome the Bill. We are happy to support the Bill, its aim and its intent. Obviously, we hope it is not something that would ever have to be directly applied in Ireland. That said, we are happy to support other colleagues in other jurisdictions where the cultural property of armed conflict has been vandalised or stolen.
I have a question relating to the practical application of this measure. I know the Minister has outlined some cases involving ISIS and others in which there has been vandalism, wanton destruction and theft. In one case during the second Gulf War all the artefacts in the museums in Baghdad were stolen during looting. At that stage, depending on whose version of history one wants to believe, the US was in control and was standing by without intervening as the looting was going on. I note that the information I have does not list the US as being a party to this. Given that the Iraqi army had disintegrated and that the new occupying force which was in place was watching while looting was happening, was there a case for this part of the Hague Convention to be used? Was such an attempt ever made?
Obviously, this has been a long time coming. As we deal with these issues, it is important to support other countries. It is clear from the case of the Convention on Cluster Munitions that the more countries sign up to these treaties, the greater the moral obligation on others to ensure they do likewise. If they do not sign up, they are in danger of becoming pariah states under international law.
The essence of attempts to prosecute warring parties during or after conflicts is that the destruction of cultural artefacts, as happened with ISIS in Syria, would probably not rank high in the international courts’ grand scale of priorities. Nevertheless, it is important to protect cultural and heritage artefacts and sites of historical interest and importance to civilisation. For that reason, we support both the Bill and the Minister in bringing it to the House.”