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The intentional destruction of cultural heritage as a violation of human rights

Geneva, Place des Nations, Memorial for Srebrenica ©
Parchment in Aramaic language of readings for Sundays and holidays. XIth-XIIth Century. Collection of manuscripts of the Chaldean Patriarchate of Babel, Iraq, CNMO. CPB_00435
folio 076. 
© Photo Fr. Najeeb Michaeel op.

In her first report to the Human Rights Council (A/HRC/31/59) and building on the report of devoted to the right to enjoy and access cultural heritage (A/HRC/17/38), the Special Rapporteur presented her initial observations about the intentional destruction of cultural heritage and indicated her intention to study this issue more in depth for her upcoming report to the General Assembly. This decision was welcomed by a cross-regional statement made to the Council in March 2016 by an unprecedented coalition of 145 States. The statement condemned intentional destruction of cultural heritage and called for identification of best practices for its prevention, and for “raising awareness on the mutually reinforcing relation between the protection of cultural heritage and human rights and on the risks faced by defenders of cultural heritage.”


In her first report to the General Assembly (A/71/317), the Special Rapporteur sets out a human rights approach, which she has developed, to the intentional destruction of cultural heritage, in conflict and non-conflict situations, by States and non-State actors. She examines the impact of such destruction on a range of human rights, including the right to take part in cultural life; calls for effective national and international strategies for preventing, and holding accountable those alleged to have taken part in, such destruction; and also calls for support for and protection of defenders of cultural heritage.

"Time to end intentional destruction of cultural heritage: a human rights call to action", Side event, 27 October 2016, NY. Watch the webcast video.

Panellist Father Najeeb Michael, a defensor of culture against Daesh, responds to UN Radio (French only)

HRC adopts resolution 33/20 on cultural rights and the protection of cultural heritage (September 2016)

Joint statement on cultural rights and the protection of cultural heritage (March 2016)

Call for submission to 2016 GA report

Responses received

Responses from States:

  1. Armenia1 | 2
  2. Azerbaijan
  3. Belgique
  4. Dominican Republic 1 | 2
  5. Georgia
  6. Greece
  7. Guatemala
  8. Italy
  9. Mauritius 1 | 2
  10. Philippines
  11. República del Salvador
  12. El Salvador - Instituto Nacional de Patrimonio Cultural
  13. Russian Federation (translation)
  14. Serbia
  15. United States of America
  16. Venezuela

Responses from NHRIs:

  1. Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos de México
  2. Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance Tanzania
  3. Commission nationale des Droits de la Personne du Rwanda 1 | 2
  4. Defensoría del Pueblo de Colombia
  5. Defensoría del Pueblo de Panamá
  6. Iranian Human rights commission 1 | 2
  7. National Human Rights Commission of India
  8. National Human Rights Institute of Paraguay

Responses from other stakeholders

  1. Adam Blitz
  2. American Association for the Advacement of Science (AAAS)
  3. Americans for Democracy and & Human rights in Bahrain
  4. Ana Filipa Vrdoljak 1 | 2 | 3
  5. Antoon de Baets
  6. Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
  7. At-sik-hata
  8. Christiane Johannot-Gradis
  9. Christoph Doppelhofer
  10. Cultural survival
  11. Diyarbakir Metropolitan Municipality
  12. Emek Shaveh
  13. Emma Loosley
  14. Endangered Archaeology in the Middle East & North Africa
  15. Fanny –Iona Morel - Observatory of diversity and cultural rights, Uni.Fribourg
  16. Geneva Call
  17. Human Rights Advocates 1 | 2
  18. Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation
  19. Lea Chauveau
  20. Luigia Bersani (Italian)
  21. Marina Lostal and Emma Cunliffe
  22. Maya Leaders Alliance in Belize
  23. Minority Rights Group International
  24. Missouri’s Little Dixie Heritage Foundation1 | 2
  25. Organization of Islamic Conference
  26. Patrice Meyer-Bisch –Observatoire de la diversité et des droits culturels
  27. Ram Puniyani
  28. Raman Maroz
  29. RASHID- Research, Assessment and Safeguarding of the Heritage of Iraq in Danger
  30. Republika Srpska
  31. Samuel Andrew Hardy
  32. Sawa Organisation for Human Rights
  33. Tamaynut NGO
  34. UNAMA-OHCHR Afghanistan
  35. UNESCO Chair on Cultural Landscapes and Heritage
  36. Youba Bathily
  37. Fondazione Adkins Chiti: Donne in Musica 1 | 2