Authors: Kim Victoria Browne
Abstract: Humanity’s cultural heritage is threatened by war, internal conflicts, looting and natural disasters. In order to protect this fragile non-renewable resource, an international community of archaeologists, lawyers and statesmen strive to draft international conventions, declarations and recommendations to govern the protection of cultural heritage. The 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage (CPUCH) is the most recent development in the international criminalisation of offences against cultural heritage. This paper outlines the evolution of International Cultural Heritage Law and examines International Law’s two prongs approach towards the protection of cultural heritage. The growth of International Cultural Heritage Law and its twin aims of protecting objects of significant cultural value during times of war and conflict and in times of peace are a social and legal development of contemporary times and one that demarcates present governance policies from past State initiatives. Furthermore, prior to the 2001 CPUCH, the majority of international treaties focused on preserving and protecting historic sites and cultural material located on land. Today, underwater archaeological sites, including sunken shipwrecks and their cargo are afforded the same legal protection from looting, theft and vandalism. The UNESCO 2001 CPUCH is a significant milestone in the evolution of the idea of preserving the past for future generations. Its provisions refer to in-situ management of underwater cultural heritage, cooperation between States, and the banning of commercial exploitation of underwater cultural heritage.
Keywords: International Law, Underwater Cultural Heritage,Trafficking