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Laws and Treaties Protecting Cultural Property

1874 Brussels Declaration



On the initiative of Czar Alexander II of Russia the delegates of 15 European States met in Brussels on 27 July 1874 to examine the draft of an international agreement concerning the laws and customs of war submitted to them by the Russian Government. The Conference adopted the draft with minor alterations. Not all the governments were willing to accept it as a binding convention, however, so it was not ratified. Nevertheless, the project formed an important step in the movement for the codification of the laws of war.

Article 17 of the 1874 Brussels Declaration provides:

In such cases [of bombardment of a defended town or fortress, agglomeration of dwellings, or village] all necessary steps must be taken to spare, as far as possible, buildings dedicated to art, science, or charitable purposes, hospitals … provided they are not being used at the time for military purposes.

It is the duty of the besieged to indicate the presence of such buildings by distinctive and visible signs to be communicated to the enemy beforehand.

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