United States of America
Practice Relating to Rule 40. Respect for Cultural Property
The US Field Manual (1956) reproduces Article 56 of the 1907 Hague Regulations and states that the property included in this rule “may be requisitioned in case of necessity for quartering the troops and the sick and wounded, storage of supplies and material, housing of vehicles and equipment, and generally as prescribed for private property”.
The Annotated Supplement to the US Naval Handbook (1997) states: “While the United States is not a Party to the 1954 Hague Convention [for the Protection of Cultural Property], it considers it to reflect customary law”.
In 2008, the US Senate approved the ratification of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property, subject to certain understandings and a declaration:
Section 1. Senate Advice and Consent Subject to Understandings and a Declaration.
The Senate advises and consents to the ratification of the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, concluded on May 14, 1954 (Treaty Doc. 106–1(A)), subject to the understandings of section 2 and the declaration of section 3.
Section 2. Understandings.
The advice and consent of the Senate under section 1 is subject to the following understandings, which shall be included in the instrument of ratification:
(4) It is the understanding of the United States of America that, as is true for all civilian objects, the primary responsibility for the protection of cultural objects rests with the Party controlling that property, to ensure that it is properly identified and that it is not used for an unlawful purpose.
Section 3. Declaration.
The advice and consent of the Senate under section 1 is subject to the following declaration:
With the exception of the provisions that obligate the United States to impose sanctions on persons who commit or order to be committed a breach of the Convention, this Convention is self-executing. This Convention does not confer private rights enforceable in United States courts.
In the Von Leeb case (The German High Command Trial)
before the US Military Tribunal at Nuremberg in 1948, the accused, former high-ranking officers in the German army and navy, were charged, inter alia
, with war crimes and crimes against humanity against civilians in that they participated in atrocities such as plunder of public and private property. The Tribunal found that, on 17 September 1940, Keitel issued an order to the military commander in occupied France providing for the illegal seizure of property and its transfer to Germany. The order provided that the Reichsminister “is entitled to transport to Germany cultural goods which appear valuable to him and to safeguard them there. The Führer has reserved for himself the decision as to their use.”
In its judgment in the Weizsaecker case (The Ministries Trial)
in 1949, the US Military Tribunal at Nuremberg referred to Article 56 of the 1907 Hague Regulations and ruled that all seizure of, destruction or wilful damage done to institutions of religious or charitable character, historic monuments, works of art and science was forbidden and should be the subject of legal proceedings.
In 1992, in its final report to Congress on the conduct of the Gulf War, the US Department of Defense stated that “cultural … property was confiscated [and] pillage was widespread” in violation of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property.
The report further stated: “Iraqi war crimes were widespread and premeditated. They include … looting of cultural property”.