The first edition of the Summer School on Heritage Destruction, Human Rights and International Law was recently held in The Hague from 27 August to 1 September 2018. It was the first time that the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies and the Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Centre for Global Heritage and Development teamed up for an educational initiative, and, in partnership with UNESCO, the results were inspiring.
The unique programme gave a broad overview of heritage protection in international law with a particular emphasis on heritage destruction. Intentionally destroying cultural heritage is an international wrong and, except in the case of absolute military necessity, constitutes a war crime and potentially a crime against humanity. In addition, heritage is increasingly recognised as having a strong human rights dimension.
The course offered a range of opportunities to test the acquisition of knowledge and participants engaged with some of the most current debates concerning the role of international law in dealing with heritage destruction. In particular, participants acquired a solid understanding of how heritage is protected in international law; the rules governing that protection in armed conflict and in peace time; the link between heritage and human rights, and the increasing case law from international criminal courts treating heritage destruction as a war crime and as crimes against humanity.
The participants in this first year included PhD students from both heritage and law disciplines, staff from the ICC, UNESCO, a diplomat, a lawyer working on the Crimean Gold case, ministerial staff, and a host of other inspiring professionals and students with a shared interest in this cross cutting topic, one that, according to the academic coordinator Dr Amy Strecker, 'transcends disciplinary boundaries and requires a multi-disciplinary approach.'
The Summer School offered a unique opportunity to learn from well-known and influential academics and leading practitioners. Participants gained first-hand knowledge of international law governing heritage protection, as well as the role of international courts in prosecuting heritage destruction in The Hague, the International City of Peace and Justice. The course also offered plenty of opportunities to network with fellow students and practitioners from all over the world.
The Coordinators, Dr Amy Strecker and Dr Joseph Powderly, are now looking forward to hosting next year’s summer school.