Practice Relating to Rule 38. Attacks against Cultural Property
Argentina’s Law of War Manual (1969) provides:
In the event of bombardment, assault or siege, all necessary precautions shall be adopted, as far as possible, to respect buildings devoted to worship, the arts, the sciences and to charity, as well as historic monuments, provided such buildings and monuments, which must display special, visible signs, are not used for military purposes.
The manual further states, with respect to combat operations:
The destruction of enemy property shall be permissible as far as required by military operations and subject to the limitations imposed by the requirement of respect for artistic, scientific and historical property.
Argentina’s Law of War Manual (1989) defines cultural property in accordance with Article 1 of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property.
The manual states: “It is absolutely prohibited to commit hostile acts against cultural property.”
The manual further qualifies “attacks directed against clearly recognized cultural property” as a grave breach.
With respect to non-international armed conflicts in particular, the manual states: “Cultural objects and places of worship which constitute the cultural or spiritual heritage of peoples enjoy special protection; they may not be attacked.”
Argentina’s Code of Military Justice (1951), as amended in 1984, punishes “whoever attacks, without any necessity, … poorhouses, places of worship, monasteries, schools … which are marked by the appropriate distinctive signs” or “whoever destroys places of worship, monasteries, libraries, museums, archives or important works of art, unless required by the military operations”.
In 1998, at the Vienna expert meeting on the revision of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property, Argentina stressed “the desirability of including the notion of military necessity” in the 1997 Revised Lauswolt Document, “provided, however, that this notion be defined precisely to avoid abuses”.