In addition to the loss of human life and creating severe humanitarian crises, the destruction of cultural heritage has played a prominent role in the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Iraq, and in the recent conflict in Mali. For example, this issue recently came into the spotlight in September 2015, when the International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor’s Office opened the first ever war crime case for destruction of cultural heritage during the 2012 military coup d’état in Mali, where rebel groups considerably damaged Timbuktu’s cultural sites and historical monuments.

In this learning session, Kristin Hausler of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law (BIICL) provided an introduction to the current legal frameworks that protect cultural heritage during both international and non-international armed conflicts, and how they apply to state actors and non-state armed groups.


Kristin Hausler Kristin Hausler is the Dorset Senior Research Fellow in Public International Law at the British Institute of International and Comparative Law. Since joining the Institute in 2007, she has developed and led several human rights projects advising governments, international organizations and non-governmental organizations. At present, she is leading a three-year project on the enforcement of the right to cultural heritage, as well as a follow-up study on the protection of education in the MENA region. She is also a member of the Cultural Heritage Committee of the International Law Association, for which she co-authored a report on the import and export of cultural objects. She also published a book chapter on cultural heritage in armed conflicts for the War Report, as well as an article on the destruction of cultural heritage by non-State armed groups, which was published in the last issue of the Santander Art & Culture Law Review. She regularly speaks on the topic of cultural heritage, such as at the side event on the destruction of cultural heritage, which took place during the Human Rights Council, in February 2016, in Geneva. Kristin is also a consultant for Geneva Call on a study seeking to engage armed non-state actors in protecting cultural heritage.


Angharad Laing Angharad Laing Executive Director, PHAP
Noëlle Quénivet Noëlle Quénivet Associate Professor, University of the West of England

Recordings and follow-up

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Recording (audio podcast)

Recommended resources

Further reading

During the event the following resources and websites were mentioned by the participants:

Learning objectives

  • Basic understanding of the concepts of cultural heritage and enhanced protection, and the consideration of deliberate cultural cleansing in armed conflicts as a war crime.
  • Knowledge of the primary legal sources for the protection of cultural heritage in armed conflicts and the complementing role of international humanitarian law (IHL).
  • Awareness of the implications that the qualification of a situation as either an international or non-international armed conflict has on the protection of cultural heritage.
  • Understanding of states’ obligations to protect and enforce protection of cultural heritage during armed conflicts and the individual criminal responsibility of non-state armed groups to respect cultural heritage under IHL, international criminal law, and customary law.
  • Familiarity with the application of existing legal frameworks through international criminal mechanisms to prosecute attacks against cultural heritage and the legal gaps encountered when damage has been perpetrated by non-state armed groups or by states that are not parties to the 1954 Hague Convention or the Rome Statute.

Target audience and event access

The Online Learning Series on Humanitarian Law and Policy targets humanitarian practitioners needing a basic to intermediate level of understanding of key legal and policy areas related to humanitarian action.

PHAP Credentialing Program

PHAP Credentialing Program

International Legal Frameworks for Humanitarian Action

This event will help you prepare for the PHAP Credentialing Program certification in International Legal Frameworks for Humanitarian Action.

The event will address some aspects of segments 3.1 and 3.5 of the certification assessment outline.

Read more about the PHAP Credentialing Program