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March 23, 11

NEWS / UN urges Libya and countries enforcing no-fly zone not to endanger cultural heritage

23 March 2011 – The head of the United Nations agency tasked with protecting the world’s cultural heritage today urged both the Libyan authorities and the international coalition enforcing a no-fly zone over the North African country to ensure that no military operations are carried out in areas where historical cultural sites are situated.

Irina Bokova, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said Libya and the allies must respect the Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its two Protocols.

Of the 10 States that make up the coalition implementing the Security Council resolution that called for “all necessary measures” to protect civilians in Libya, eight are party to the Convention – Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Qatar, Spain and the United States.

“From a cultural heritage point of view, [Libya] is of great importance to humanity as a whole,” said Ms. Bokova in a letter to the Permanent Representatives to UNESCO of each of the countries concerned. “Several major sites bear witness to the great technical and artistic achievements of the ancestors of the people [of Libya], and constitute a precious legacy,” she said.

Article 4 of the 1954 Hague Convention provides that “[t]he High Contracting Parties (States) undertake to respect cultural property situated within their own territory as well as within the territory of other High Contracting Parties by refraining from any use of the property and its immediate surroundings or of the appliances in use for its protection for purposes which are likely to expose it to destruction or damage in the event of armed conflict; and by refraining from any act of hostility, directed against such property.”

Libya’s cultural heritage includes five sites inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List:

* The Old Town of Ghadamès, which is known as “the pearl of the desert” and stands in an oasis. It is one of the oldest pre-Saharan cities and an outstanding example of a traditional settlement.
* The Rock-Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus are situated on the border with Tassili N’Ajjer in Algeria. The sites are on a rocky massif with thousands of cave paintings in very different styles, dating from 12,000 BC to AD 100.
* The Archaeological Site of Cyrene was established as a Roman province in 74 BC.
* The Archaeological Site of Leptis Magna was founded in the first millennium BC and is considered to be a unique artistic realization in the domain of urban planning.
* The Archaeological Site of Sabratha was a Phoenician trading-post that served as an outlet for the products of the African hinterland and was part of the short-lived Numidian Kingdom of Massinissa before being Romanized and rebuilt in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD.


Tags: hague convention,


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