J. Paul Getty Trust Occasional Papers in Cultural Heritage Policy

Number 1


Cultural Cleansing and Mass Atrocities: Protecting Cultural Heritage in Armed Conflict Zones

Thomas G. Weiss and Nina Connelly

In 2016, in response to recent attacks on cultural heritage sites in Syria, Iraq, and Timbuktu, the J. Paul Getty Trust convened a meeting at the British Academy in London to discuss the need for an international framework to protect cultural heritage in zones of armed conflict. To further explore these questions, the Trust subsequently launched the J. Paul Getty Trust Occasional Papers in Cultural Heritage Policy.

In this first issue, Thomas G. Weiss and Nina Connelly examine the relationship between cultural cleansing and mass atrocities. After summarizing the key debates surrounding the destruction of cultural heritage in armed conflict zones, Weiss and Connelly present options for creating an international framework dedicated to its protection. They demonstrate how the UN’s Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine, a preexisting framework that allows for international intervention to stop war crimes or genocide, might be adapted to protect cultural heritage sites. This paper introduces the varied challenges and issues connected to the protection of cultural heritage and proposes a way forward in the development of a unified international response.