The Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Act comes into force

The Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Act 2017 came into force in February 2017, marking the UK’s accession to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.This means that the UK has agreed policies and procedures to protect cultural property in times of conflict.

Cultural Property is defined in the Convention and the Act as: “movable or immovable property of great importance to the cultural heritage of every people, such as monuments of architecture, art or history, whether religious or secular; archaeological sites; groups of buildings which, as a whole, are of historical or artistic interest; works of art; manuscripts, books and other objects of artistic, historical or archaeological interest; as well as scientific collections and important collections of books or archives or of reproductions of the property defined above”.

The Acts provisions include:

  • the offence of making cultural property the object of attack (imprisonment for up to 30 years);
  • the offence of dealing in cultural property that has been unlawfully exported from an occupied territory (where dealers knew or had reason to suspect the property in question had been looted) (fines and/or seven years imprisonment);
  • immunity from seizure of cultural property in the UK that is being transported for safekeeping during a conflict between two or more states; and
  • recognition of the Blue Shield emblem to signify property that is protected by the Hague Convention.