World Heritage Sites in Cyprus and Italy Granted UN Special Protection Status

A United Nations committee tasked with safeguarding the world’s valued cultural heritage that might be threatened in times of armed conflict, has granted enhanced protection status to three sites in Cyprus and another one in Italy, it was announced today.
The sites of Choirokoitia, Paphos (photo) and the Painted Churches of the Troodos region in Cyprus, as well as the Castel del Monte in Italy, were declared as being in need of enhanced protection by the Committee for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) during a meeting in Paris this week.

“We do not ever want a repeat of the destruction of cultural sites such as the Mostar Bridge in Bosnia and Herzegovina, or attacks like those against the old city of Dubrovnik in Croatia during the Balkans conflict,” said Committee Chairman Nout van Woudenberg.
“Enhanced protection status reinforces the legal measures in place to prevent such terrible losses to the world’s cultural heritage,” he added after the status was granted; the first such decision by the Committee.
Enhanced protection status is one of the features of the 1999 Second Protocol to the Hague Convention of 1954 for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.
The granting of such protection by the Committee to sites in countries that are party to the Second Protocol can be made under three conditions – that the site be of the greatest importance to humanity; that it be protected by adequate domestic legal and administrative measures recognizing its exceptional cultural and historic value and ensuring the highest level of protection; and that it not be used for military purposes or to shield military sites.

The protection means that States cannot fall back on the argument of “imperative military necessity” for using or targeting cultural sites in times of conflict. It also obligates States to make intentional attacks against identified sites a criminal offence or to penalize use of such sites or their immediate surroundings in support of military action.