The deliberate destruction or damaging of buildings and cultural
artefacts has sadly become a feature of modern conflicts, especially
ethnically driven ones. Citing examples from the recent wars in
the former Yugoslavia and from Cyprus, the rapporteur shows how
this destruction often aims to eradicate the culture, identity and
existence of the “other”.
Yet the restoration of damaged cultural heritage sites can
also be part of post-conflict reconciliation, if handled well. The
Council of Europe can play an important role in this, not least
by developing – together with its partners in this field – a set
of guidelines based on the existing “Faro Convention”. Reconstruction
should be “de-politicised”, so that technical experts can work without
pressure from political or religious authorities, and integrated
into broader humanitarian aid programmes. Swift damage assessment
and emergency repairs are important first steps. Local people could
be involved in repair projects, where appropriate, as part of helping fragmented
communities to recover, leading to broader sustainable development
strategies which benefit all communities and ensure cultural diversity.
Finally, member States – together with the United Nations
– should look at creating stronger sanctions, including reparations,
for “militarily unnecessary destruction” and consolidate the legal
notion that this be considered a crime against humanity.