Practice Relating to Rule 40. Respect for Cultural Property
The Military Manual (1993) of the Netherlands provides: “Theft, pillage and destruction of cultural property are also prohibited.”
The manual recalls that, according to Article 19 of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property, the provisions of that Convention on respect for cultural property apply, as a minimum, in non-international armed conflicts.
The Military Handbook (1995) of the Netherlands states: “Cultural property may not be stolen, plundered or exposed to vandalism. It may not be requisitioned either.”
The Military Manual (2005) of the Netherlands states:
0523. The following objects, as cultural property, fall under the protection of the  Convention [for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict]:
- movable or immovable property of great importance to the cultural heritage of a people (monuments, works of art, books, etc.);
- buildings whose purpose is to preserve or exhibit this property (libraries, museums, etc.) and refuges intended to offer similar protection;
- centres containing a large amount of cultural property.
0524. The protection to be given falls into two parts: safeguarding and respecting. A State in whose territory the property is located should, even during peacetime, prepare to safeguard it against armed conflict. It can do this, for example, by building basement shelters, preparing transport and also by marking objects as described in the Convention.
0526. Respect for cultural property implies that the objects cannot be used in case of armed conflict, and that hostile acts against such property must be avoided.
Theft, pillage and destruction of cultural property is prohibited in all forms. No reprisals may be made against cultural property and buildings for religious worship.
In June 1944 the German military units withdrew from the centre of the city of Florence in Italy, to avoid involving the city centre, with its many art treasures, in the military operations. The ring road around the inner city was retained as a boundary for military transport.
0531. Cultural property may be placed under enhanced protection if it meets the following three conditions:
- it is cultural heritage of the greatest importance for humanity;
- it is protected by adequate national legal and administrative measures recognizing its exceptional cultural and historical value and ensuring the highest level of protection;
- it is not used for military purposes or to protect military sites and the relevant State has made a declaration confirming that it will not be so used.
0532. The parties to an armed conflict must ensure the immunity of cultural property that has been placed under enhanced protection, by refraining from any use of such property as objectives of attack or any use of the property or its direct environs in support of military action. Cultural property under enhanced protection can only forfeit such protection in most exceptional circumstances. Decisions on this may only be taken at the highest level of operational command.
Under the International Crimes Act (2003) of the Netherlands, “destroying or appropriating on a large scale cultural property that is under the protection of [the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property and the 1999 Second Protocol thereto]”, as well as “theft, pillaging or appropriation of – or acts of vandalism directed against – cultural property under the protection of the [1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property]”, are crimes when committed in an international armed conflict.