The Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Act 2017 - changing attitudes the wartime plunder of art

Oct 2017 | Client publication/article

In 2017 the UK Government finally ratified the Hague Convention (as defined below) by passing the Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Act 2017 (the “Act”). From antiquity to modern day, international attitudes and laws regarding the plunder of artworks and cultural property during wartime have changed dramatically. The creation of the 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (the “Hague Convention”) was the first time that the protection of cultural property during conflict was formalised into international law. Since the Hague Convention was passed, it has had two subsequent protocols added and has been ratified by over 100 States. Today the threat of extremist destruction and links to terrorism financing means that the issue of protecting cultural heritage and cultural property protection during conflict is important than ever before. Despite being an international legal standard, the UK only ratified the Hague Convention and its two protocols in 2017, over fifty years since it was originally passed and is the 129th State Party to do so. This article examines attitudes towards the plunder of art during war, sets out the history of international laws regarding protection of cultural property, discusses the new Act, analyses its potential impact and explains why this is such a momentous occasion and why protecting cultural heritage and cultural property is more crucial than ever before.


Nigel Boardman (partner), Lowrie Robertson (paralegal)

Publications and seminars landing page