Published April 24, 2019 | Version 1.0.0
Journal article Open

How to protect outstanding cultural heritage from the ravages of war? Utilize the System of Enhanced Protection under the 1999 Second Protocol to the 1954 Hague Convention

  • 1. RASHID International




Cultural heritage around the world continues to be threatened by war. The 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (‘1954 Hague Convention’) automatically confers protected status on every cultural property “of great importance to the cultural heritage of every people.” This very universality, however, is also its greatest weakness: it does not provide visibility to individual cultural sites or help military planners and field commanders choose priorities.

In addition, the system of Special Protection under the 1954 Hague Convention is in a state of relative dormancy due to its requirement that sites be located an adequate distance from military objectives, and because of the politicization of the inscription process during the Angkor debacle of the 1970s. World Heritage status functions as a stop-gap measure for some sites, but is financially infeasible for most States and, in any case, provides no additional legal protection.

The system of Enhanced Protection under the 1999 Second Protocol to the 1954 Hague Convention addresses these shortcomings by uniting three important considerations: wider scope, ease of access, and strong legal protection. This article recommends that States ratify the 1999 Second Protocol, nominate relevant sites and objects for Enhanced Protection, and support the system of Enhanced Protection by providing and requesting financial and technical assistance from the Fund for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.


About the Author

Seán Fobbe is Chief Legal Officer of RASHID International, a worldwide network of archaeologists, cultural heritage experts, and other professionals dedicated to safeguarding the cultural heritage of Iraq. He leads a team of elite lawyers in their fight to secure the international rule of law, end the destruction of Iraqi heritage, and establish accountability for international crimes. RASHID International is a registered and audited non-profit organization headquartered in Germany.

Seán graduated from Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität with a degree in law, earning an award for exceptionally outstanding achievements in international law and a coveted general distinction. He specializes in international law, with a focus on international humanitarian law, human rights law, and cultural heritage law.

Twitter: @FobbeSean

ORCID: 0000-0003-3808-7730


About RASHID International

RASHID International is a worldwide network of archaeologists and cultural heritage experts dedicated to safeguarding and promoting the cultural heritage of Iraq, ancient Mesopotamia. To assist our Iraqi colleagues, we collect and share information, research and expert knowledge, work to raise public awareness, and both develop and execute strategies to protect heritage sites and other cultural property through international cooperation, advocacy and technical assistance.

RASHID International is registered as a non-profit organisation in Germany and enjoys charitable tax-exempt status under German law. We are an organisation in special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council since 2019. Learn more about our work at

All of our research is available open access here:




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