At its meeting on Friday in Paris, the Committee on Culture expressed concerns about the systematic destruction of cultural heritage during conflicts, particularly those that are ethnically driven. The report by Ismeta Dervoz (Bosnia and Herzegovina, EPP/CD), adopted by the committee, underlines that the destruction of monuments is often an assault on the cultural identity of a population, which aims to prevent communities from returning to places after a conflict and recognising them.
The committee recommended developing international guidelines for protection and reconstruction of damaged or destroyed cultural heritage in order to preserve cultural identity and diversity in crisis and post-crisis situations.
The committee considers, in particular, that during and immediately after a war, cultural heritage should be integrated into emergency humanitarian operations if irreversible loss of historic buildings is to be avoided. As a second stage, the committee recommends strengthening governance structures and determining a framework for restoration and reconstruction based on urban planning control systems.
This reconstruction process should be depoliticised, without pressure from political or religious authorities, in order to ensure impartiality, and take into account the preservation of local cultural identity and diversity of cultural heritage.
The parliamentarians moreover recognised that reconstruction of the cultural heritage after a crisis is fundamental in conflict resolution and reconciliation. It should be integrated in programmes for the sustainable return of refugees and displaced persons.
Finally, the committee proposed to member States to revise the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the event of armed conflict, in order to apply strengthened protective mechanisms and stronger sanctions. It also recommended that the targeted destruction of cultural property be classed as a “crime against humanity”.