Practice Relating to Rule 38. Attacks against Cultural Property
According to Croatia’s LOAC Compendium (1991), acts of hostility against cultural objects are prohibited. However, cultural objects under general protection lose their immunity in cases of imperative military necessity. The existence of such necessity must be established by the local commander.
The Compendium further qualifies “unlawful attacks on cultural objects” as war crimes.
Croatia’s Commanders’ Manual (1992) states:
13. Specifically protected objects … may not be attacked.
14. The immunity of a marked cultural object may be withdrawn in case of imperative military necessity.
55. [In attack] the immunity of a marked cultural object shall only be withdrawn when the fulfilment of the mission absolutely so requires. Advance warning shall give time for safeguard measures and information on withdrawal of immunity.
69. Marked cultural objects whose immunity has been withdrawn shall still be respected to the extent the fulfilment of the mission permits.
According to Croatia’s Criminal Code (1997), it is a war crime to destroy “cultural objects or facilities dedicated to science, art, education or those established for humanitarian purposes”.
The Code provides a heavier penalty if “a clearly recognizable facility is destroyed which belongs to the cultural and spiritual heritage of the people and which is under special protection of international law”.
Croatia’s Criminal Code (1997), as amended to 2006, states that a war crime is committed by “whoever violates the rules of international law in time of war, armed conflict or occupation by ordering [or committing] an attack against objects protected by international law”.
In 1991, during the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, Croatia reported and condemned the destruction of and damage to cultural, historical and religious monuments by the Yugoslav army.