7th International Conference on Humanities and Educational Research (ICHER 2021), Erzurum, Turkey, 04 September 2021
Attacks against cultural property during armed conflicts are as old as the history of war.
These attacks, on the other hand, are based on reasons such as demoralizing the enemy, washing
away the values or looting. Towards the end of the 19th century, the prohibition of damaging acts
against cultural property in international law took place in documents related to armed conflicts.
However, there are still uncertainties about who the victims of crimes against cultural property are.
The source of this uncertainty is the question of whether the victims of crimes committed against
cultural property are only the communities that own them, or the whole humanity when these
property are described as cultural heritage. The issue that creates this uncertainty is related to the
definition and scope of cultural property. From the definition of cultural property in the 1954
Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, it is
deduced that the cultural property is not the heritage of the people of the country where it is located,
but the heritage of all humanity. In this context, a certain progress has been made in the protection
of cultural property, which have become the subject of international law, and the punishment of
those who harm them. Crimes against cultural property have been included in both ad hoc
international criminal courts and hybrid courts. Finally, in the Rome Statute, which established the
ICC (International Criminal Court) in 1999, crimes against cultural property were included.
However, the first trial regarding this crime was held in the Al Mahdi Case, whose indictment was
prepared in 2015 for the unlawful acts committed in Timbuktu, Mali in 2012. During the lawsuit
process, the ICC has constantly referred to the importance of cultural property for humanity. In its
decision, the court convicted AL Mahdi of committing war crimes related to the destruction of
cultural heritage for his acts in Timbuktu. Trial Chamber VII of the ICC found Al Mahdi guilty
and convict him of the war crime of attacking protected objects under Article 8(2)(e)(iv) of the
Rome Statute. The Chamber also stated that all but one of the destroyed cultural sites are on the
UNESCO World Heritage list and identified three categories as direct and indirect victims as
victims of crime; the inhabitants of Timbuktu as the direct victims, the people of Mali and the
international community in general. The Chamber did not enter the definition of the “international
community” in its decision, but included this expression in its decision to express the gravity of the crime. Thus, it has been tried to draw the attention of the international community in the context
of the protection of cultural property in international law. In this manner, in this study, it will be
evaluated who the “international community”, which is identified as a victim in crimes against
cultural property, and which international organization can be represented by.
Keywords: Cultural Property, International Community, International Criminal Court, Al Mahdi