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The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Armed Conflict: The ‘Human Element’ and the Jurisprudence of the ICTY

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During the wars in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, extensive attacks on cultural heritage took place. Established in 1993, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has prosecuted some of these cultural heritage crimes, and it is the Tribunal’s work in this regard that constitutes the central focus of this article. Arguing that the ICTY’s jurisprudence has highlighted a crucial ‘human element’ of cultural heritage destruction, the article identifies two particular ‘human’ dimensions of cultural heritage crimes that can be extracted from the ICTY’s cases, namely an impact dimension and an intent dimension. If the Tribunal’s jurisprudence has thereby underscored the powerful synergies between crimes against property and crimes against people, these synergies have wider practical implications. Adopting a functionalist view, this article ultimately seeks to show that cultural heritage has a potentially important and largely unexplored role to play in post-conflict reconciliation.

Affiliations: 1: University of Birmingham, UK


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