Monday, 18 May 2015

Help us get #Hague1954 ratified in the UK!

Following the UK General Election on 8 May, BISI is supporting UK Blue Shield's new campaign to persuade Parliament to ratify the 1954 Hague Convention as soon as possible.

It's been a long slog: every government agrees in principle but none gets around to putting it into practice. Let's make it happen now!

Please get involved by writing to your recently (re-)elected MP asking them to take up ratification at the earliest possible opportunity.

Here is a draft letter that you can simply send to your MP, or that can be adapted as necessary, and a list of bullet points if you would prefer to write your own letter. They were drafted by Professor Peter Stone, the Chair of UK Blue Shield.

If you do not know the name of your MP or how to contact them, you can find their details on the UK Parliament website. If you would like to write to your local newspaper that would be wonderful as well.

To help us keep track of the campaign, please tell us when you write to your MP, or your local press, by:

  • Leaving a comment below this post;
  • Leaving a comment on the UK Blue Shield's Facebook page
  • Or, if you use Twitter, sending a tweet to @UKBlueShield with hashtag #Hague1954 — and tweet to your followers too!

Please also encourage anyone you know to write to their MP. Use Twitter (#Hague1954), Facebook, email, good old-fashioned letters — whatever it it takes to tell our elected representatives why this matters so much.

Sample letter to your MP

Dear [MP'S NAME]

1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its two Protocols of 1954 and 1999

May I congratulate you on your recent election and ask that you take action on a very topical and urgent matter.

The Hague Convention is the primary piece of International Humanitarian Law concerning the protection of cultural heritage during conflict. While the world reacts in horror to the appalling destruction of ancient sites, libraries, archives, and museums in the Middle East and Africa the UK remains the only Permanent Member of the United Nations Security Council, and arguably the most significant military power (and the only one with extensive military involvements abroad), not to have ratified the 1954 Hague Convention.

Following the catastrophic damage to libraries, archives, museums, and archaeological sites in Iraq after the 2003 US/UK led invasion the then Minister for Heritage, Andrew McIntosh, announced in 2004 the Government’s intention to ratify the 1954 Hague Convention as soon as Parliamentary business allowed. This claim has been repeated by every relevant Minister since. In November 2011, Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, then Secretary of State at DCMS, made a joint UK Government and British Red Cross Society pledge “to make every effort to facilitate the UK’s ratification… and to promote understanding of the principles and rules of the Convention within the UK”.

Ratification has cross-Party support and the support of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport; the Foreign and Commonwealth Office; the Department for Overseas Development; and the Ministry of Defence.

In order to ratify the Convention national legislation has to be passed. A Draft Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill was scrutinised by DCMS Select Committee in the summer of 2008. The draft Bill required only minor modifications but no time was found for it in the next session. Despite constant requests, no time has been found since.

I ask you to urge the Government to take prompt and urgent action to ratify the Convention within the first session of this new Parliament.

Yours sincerely,

[Your name and address]

The UK and the Hague Convention – key points

  • Following the appalling destruction of cultural property during the Second World War the international community came together in 1954 and produced The Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. As the result of concerns raised by the USA and other countries some parts of the Convention were removed and published as a 1954 Protocol to the Convention.
  • Mainly as the result of the fighting in the former Yugoslavia a 2nd Protocol was produced in 1999. It identified the Blue Shield as an international NGO Advisory Body to the UNESCO Committee for the Protection of Cultural Property In the event of Armed Conflict.
  • In 2003, when they led the Coalition that invaded Iraq, neither the USA nor the UK had ratified the Convention or its Protocols. The USA ratified the Convention, but not the Protocols, in 2009. The UK is now arguably the most significant military power (and the only one with extensive military involvements abroad) not to have ratified the 1954 Hague Convention.
  • In 2004 the then Minister for Heritage, Andrew McIntosh, announced the Government’s intention to ratify the 1954 Hague Convention as soon as Parliamentary business allowed.
  • In the summer of 2008 a Draft Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill was scrutinised by DCMS Select Committee. There were very few changes required but the Draft Bill was not given a slot in the next session.
  • In 2009 Barbara Follett MP, then Minister of Heritage, reiterated that HMG was committed to “ratification at the earliest possible opportunity”.
  • In 2010, written evidence was submitted to the Iraq Inquiry by the UK National Commission for UNESCO (UKNC) and twelve other cultural organisations. It is understood that the Inquiry will recommend immediate ratification when, and if, it reports.
  • In 2011 Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for Culture, Communications & Creative Industries at DCMS, reconfirmed that HMG was committed to ratification “at the earliest possible opportunity”.
  • In November 2011, Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, then Secretary of State at DCMS, made a joint UK Government and British Red Cross Society pledge “to make every effort to facilitate the UK’s ratification… and to promote understanding of the principles and rules of the Convention within the UK”.
  • Ratification has the support of the Conservative, Liberal Democrat, and Labour parties; it is supported by DCMS, MoD, DFID, and FCO. The Armed Forces have acknowledged the value of trying to protect cultural property during deployment as a ‘force multiplier’ – something that makes their job easier. They attempt to work within the ‘spirit of the Convention’ and relations between the Armed Forces and the UK National Committee for the Blue Shield (UKBS) are becoming clearer and more helpful.
  • On 20 Jan 2014 Ed Vaizey MP wrote to the UKNC and UKBS reiterating that ratification is a Government “priority” and that HMG “remains committed” to ratification “as soon as Parliamentary time allows”.
  • On 21 Jan 2014, DCMS wrote to UKNC/UKBS stating that “the Cabinet Committee has not been able to grant drafting authority for the Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill to be offered as a Government hand-out bill in the 2014-15 Parliamentary session. My understanding is that this means it will now unfortunately not be possible to take forward a Government-initiated measure to ratify the Hague Convention in the remaining time available to this Parliament.”

12 comments:

  1. I've emailed my MP! (Labour's Emily Thornberry)

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  2. What effect would the 1954 Hague Convention have on UK policy towards Syria if it were ratified? If it led to a UK invasion of Syria in order to "protect" Palmyra from ISIS (which is being funded, supplied and advised by the US, Turkey and Saudi Arabia) among themselves, we could very well rue the day this ratification happens.

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  3. Hi. Ratification of the 1954 Hague Convention does not, in itself, provide a mandate to invade another country. What it does do, however, along with adding another layer of International Humanitarian Law thus further limiting the destructive nature of armed conflict, is provide an invading military (who is already going in under the instructions of their government for whatever reason) with a mandate to protect cultural heritage while they are there, thereby avoiding the disastrous mass destruction that occurred during the last Iraq War. It also provides a framework for militaries both when at home and abroad to follow when operating in an area rich with cultural heritage.

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  4. I've written to my MP, Alan Duncan

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  5. I've written to my MP (Richard Arkless, Dumfries and Galloway)

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  6. I've written to my MP (Richard Arkless, Dumfries and Galloway)

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  7. Thanks for the sample letter.

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