26 October 2016, New York – European Union Intervention at the 71st United Nations General Assembly Third Committee Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights Ms Karima Bennoune
We would like to thank the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Ms Karima Bennoune, for her presentation and to reiterate our strong support for her mandate and her work.
We welcome the Special Rapporteur’s report on current challenges and threats compromising the integrity of cultural heritage, viewed from a human rights perspective. The EU shares your assessment that those challenges lead to violations of human rights, including the right to take part in cultural life and to access and enjoy cultural heritage. As you rightly stressed in your report, in order to protect cultural heritage, it is critical to adopt a holistic approach taking into consideration the inextricable connection between tangible and intangible heritage. Due to the close interconnection between those dimensions of cultural heritage, the EU underlines the importance of protecting and respecting both of them at national, regional and international levels. Therefore, the wider ratification of essential conventions concerning cultural heritage protection that provide the concrete legal instruments and preventive measures should be considered as an important step to that end.
We share the focus of the report on the intentional destruction of cultural heritage carried out by both State and non-State actors, in conflict and non-conflict situations. However, as it is pointed out in the report, although intentional destruction of cultural heritage has many human rights-related implications, it is still not addressed sufficiently by the international community as a violation of human rights. In that regard, we share your conclusion that measures must be taken to facilitate prosecution under domestic law of those responsible for intentional destruction of cultural heritage, looting and illicit trafficking in cultural objects. The recent judgment of the International Criminal Court sentencing, for the first time, a perpetrator of the war crime consisting in intentionally directing attacks against religious and historic buildings is a significant development in cultural heritage protection and a sign of the growing recognition of the importance of the cultural rights.
Could you elaborate on suggested measures in order to ensure the end of impunity of perpetrators?
In your report, you also mentioned the insufficient attention paid to the protection of cultural heritage defenders (“heritage heroes”), who work hard or even risk their lives in order to intervene when cultural heritage is at stake. The EU shares your approach that they should be regarded as human rights defenders and is strongly committed to support their role.
We would be interested in hearing you views on how States can provide them with a safe and enabling environment for action.
Thank you. We are looking forward to continue working with you.
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