The Destruction of Cultural Heritage Should be a War Crime

02 Mar 2015 7:17 AM | Anonymous

The Destruction of Cultural Heritage Should be a War Crime

The world has changed; the law must change with it

A new video purports to show Islamic State militants destroying ancient Assyrian artifacts inside a Mosul museum. This video appears days after 255 Assyrian Christians reportedly went missing in Syria.

It turns out that the news isn’t as bad as it first appeared. On Thursday, Islamic State posted a five-minute video of men destroying ancient Mesopotamian sculptures in the Mosul Museum, Iraq’s second-largest museum, with sledgehammers and power tools. Their stated reason was that these works of art promoted idolatry. It was a sickening sight—more than one person I know couldn’t bear to watch the footage—and quickly elicited public denunciations from cultural leaders such as Thomas P. Campbell, director of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Unesco Director-General Irina Bokova.

But later that day a University College, London archaeologist told Britain’s Channel 4 News that the metal reinforcing bars visible poking out of some of the fragments lying on the floor indicated that some of the targeted statues were plaster replicas of works that had previously been evacuated to the Baghdad Museum for safekeeping.