Oblivion or Prosecution? The Search for the International Legal Framework on Individual Criminal Responsibility for Cultural Heritage Crimes in Armed Conflict

Kit De Vriese
Deze thesis beantwoordt de vraag of er een consistent, duidelijk en efficiënt rechtskader bestaat voor misdaden tegen cultureel erfgoed.

Misdaden tegen cultureel erfgoed: vervolgen of vergeten?

“Het essentiële gevolg van oorlog is vernietiging, niet noodzakelijk van mensenlevens, maar van de producten van menselijke arbeid.”

Deze quote van George Orwell is misschien wat kort door de bocht, maar er schuilt waarheid in. Oorlogen zoals die in het voormalige Joegoslavië, en meer recent in Libië, Mali en Syrië tonen aan dat de vernietiging van culturele objecten geen praktijken zijn uit lang vervlogen tijden. Hun doelbewuste vernietiging, of ten minste beschadiging of plundering wordt meer en meer een tactiek van gewapende groeperingen en dit om een heel scala aan motieven: omdat deze objecten gemakkelijk doelen zijn, om de verdediger uit zijn schelp te lokken, of belangrijker, om de lange geschiedenis van een volk en zijn traditie van samenleven af te breken. Het is net zoals verkrachting een psychologische en demoraliserende vorm van oorlogsvoeren. Sociale media kan dit nog eens versterken. Denk maar aan de propaganda van IS na de vernieling van Palmyra in 2015. Hét verschil tussen deze eigendomsmisdrijven en misdrijven tegen mensen bestaat erin dat toekomstige generaties geraakt blijven en wezen worden van hun eigen cultuur: ze verliezen het besef vanwaar ze komen.

Genoeg rechtsbronnen…

Sinds eind 19de eeuw zijn er enorm veel internationale verdragen die de vernietiging en beschadiging van cultureel erfgoed veroordelen. Toch bestraffen ze niet allemaal het gedrag van misdadigers, zijn ze niet erg duidelijk over modaliteiten zoals het minimum en maximum van een straf en nemen staten enkel deel als ze dat zelf willen. Gelukkig bestaat er zoiets als internationaal gewoonterecht, dat ook bindend is voor een bepaalde staat in bepaalde omstandigheden. Dit heeft als voordeel dat ook niet-staten, zoals IS, gebonden kunnen worden, zelfs al treden de landen waarin ze actief zijn niet toe tot het Rome Statuut.

De verschillende internationale verdragen voorzien echter geen algemene definitie. Sommige verdragen, zoals het Haags Verdrag van 1954 hebben het over culturele eigendom, anderen hebben het over cultureel erfgoed, zoals het Werelderfgoedverdrag van 1972. Deze kakofonie aan termen kan er echter toe leiden dat staten berusten in hun verplichtingen om misdaden tegen zulke objecten te bestraffen. De keuze voor één term is dus noodzakelijk. Cultureel erfgoed is intrinsiek de meest toepasselijke term, want het omvat ook ontastbare zaken. Zoals een traditionele dans, wat ook onder de noemer ‘cultuur’ valt. Daarnaast benadrukt erfgoed ook dat het om zaken gaan die tussen generaties worden overgedragen.

… maar toch enorm veel open deuren

Het is niet verwonderlijk dat misdaden tegen cultureel erfgoed vervolgd moeten worden. Strafrecht is onder andere gebaseerd op retributie (misdadigers moeten worden terechtgesteld voor wat ze hebben gedaan) en afschrikking (dergelijke misdrijven in de toekomst vermijden). Vervolging van deze misdaden is echter niet zo vanzelfsprekend. Op nationaal niveau is er vaak niet veel aan te doen, denk maar aan de bombardering van de citadel van Aleppo door het Syrisch regeringsleger. Wetgevers hebben het recht in eigen handen: ze zullen pas ingrijpen als objecten door hun vijand worden vernietigd.

Daarom is er zoiets als internationaal strafrecht, dat individuen bestraft die zich verlagen tot het opzettelijk vernietigen van deze objecten. Dit gebeurt nu meestal door het Internationaal Strafgerechtshof in Den Haag, dat is gebaseerd op het Statuut van Rome, een verdrag tussen verschillende staten waaronder bijna geheel Europa, Latijns-Amerika en verschillende Afrikaanse en Aziatische landen. Dit verdrag geeft de procureur van het Strafgerechtshof verschillende handvaten om een zaak te vervolgen en de misdadigers achter de tralies te krijgen. Er zijn twee officiële categorieën van misdaden. Ten eerste zijn er oorlogsmisdaden, zoals het opzettelijk beschadigen van bepaalde culturele gebouwen (en ziekenhuizen), maar ook indirect door het bombarderen van onverdedigde dorpen (die dus erfgoed kunnen bevatten). Daarnaast zijn er ook misdaden tegen de mensheid, zoals vervolging omwille van ras of cultuur, die dan weer indirect misdaden tegen cultureel erfgoed moeten bestraffen en voorkomen. Culturele genocide is dan weer niet strafbaar, doordat bepaalde Westerse staten na de Tweede Wereldoorlog bang waren om bestraft te worden voor hun misdaden tegen inheemse volkeren. Het zou echter zo moeten zijn, anders ontstaan er lacunes in het rechtssysteem. Volgens de Genocideconventie zou het zo mogelijk zijn om eerst een groep te ontbinden en dan de culturele resten van die groep af te breken, een ‘perfecte misdaad’ dus.

Obstakels

Naast theoretische moeilijkheden zoals deze zijn er ook praktische, zoals de klassieke vraag naar efficiëntie, zoals kosten en tijd die kunnen worden vrijgemaakt. Daarnaast is er ook de kant van de misdadiger die over een recht van verdediging beschikt en op een duidelijk en voorzienbare ontwikkeling van dit recht moet kunnen rekenen.

Internationaal strafrecht heelt echter niet alle wonden en dus zijn er andere oplossingen mogelijk, zoals het vervolgen door andere staten (bijvoorbeeld doordat de eigenaar een onderdaan is van dat land) en het vatten van Verenigde Naties rechtbanken die speciaal en verplicht zijn ingericht voor een bepaald conflict. De bekendste hiervan is het Joegoslaviëtribunaal, dat onder andere de verwoesting van de Dubrovnik onder de loep heeft genomen. In de zaak Strugar oordeelde het tribunaal onder andere dat kennis van de werelderfgoedstatus van een gebouw de straf kan vermeerderen. Die status is echter niet alles, want soms zijn gebouwen gewoon belangrijk voor de lokale gemeenschap, niet per se voor de gehele mensheid.

Niet in lijn met andere takken van het recht

Ondanks ontwikkelingen in internationaal humanitair recht dat bepaalde handelingen in oorlogstijden verbiedt, hinkt internationaal strafrecht dus nog steeds achterop. Toch kan het er niet altijd evenveel aan doen, want strafrecht is inherent gebaseerd op mensen en misdaden tegen mensen. Misdaden tegen cultureel erfgoed worden bestraft omdat ze onrechtstreeks de mens treffen. Het is dus nodig tijd dat culturele misdaden an sich worden vervolgd en dat de verschillende gaten in het rechtskader worden dichtgetimmerd opdat criminelen niet meer vrijuit kunnen gaan.

Bibliografie

For the same argument regarding the lack of a harmonised definition of cultural heritage, see : Mainetti (n 112) 365 (cited supra 112).
Page 95 of 113
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INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT
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Universiteit of Hogeschool
LLM
Publicatiejaar
2018
Promotor(en)
Professor Jan Wouters