The Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 147, stipulates that “extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly” is a “grave breach” of the Convention. The Commentary on Article 147 of the Convention adds, “To constitute a grave breach, such destruction and appropriation must be extensive: an isolated incident would not be enough.”
Two articles of Protocol I have provisions that pertain to the protection of cultural property. Article 48 requires that Parties to a conflict “shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives and accordingly shall direct their operations only against military objectives.” Article 53 requires that combatants not commit any acts of hostility directed against the historic monuments, works of art or places of worship which constitute the cultural or spiritual heritage of peoples; not to use such objects in support of the military effort; and not to make such objects the object of reprisals.
These principles had been established in the Hague Convention of 1907 and were recognized as part of customary international law by the Charter of the International Military Tribunal adopted in 1945.
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